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Rep. Yvette D. Clarke

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Stop-and-Frisk Targets Minorities -- Creates Culture of Fear in New York

Posted: 03/14/2012 2:08 pm

The New York City Police Department's (NYPD) Stop, Question-and-Frisk Program, known as "Stop-and-Frisk," must end. The safety of our communities cannot be purchased at the price of the civil liberties of the law abiding citizenry of New York City (NYC). Unfortunately, the current Stop-and-Frisk policy has invaded the personal security of citizens, and its efficacy remains debatable. The current program results in fear and insecurity among minority communities which have been disproportionately affected, further exacerbating their historically fragile relationship with the NYPD. I understand that there is a definitive need for law enforcement to protect the city it serves from gun violence and other violent crimes that plague our communities. However, it is imperative that we find more creative, efficient and effective methods that increase community involvement; create trusting partnerships between the community and law enforcement; and reduce the need for draconian style policies based on racial profiling and discrimination.

According to the NYPD, its mission is to "enhance the quality of life in [NYC] by working in partnership with the community and in accordance with constitutional rights to enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear, and provide for a safe environment." The Stop-and-Frisk program counters this premise as its consequences reduce the overall quality of life for the law abiding citizen or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) and the community at large. It jeopardizes the constitutional rights of those who are stopped, questioned and searched with very limited cause; and it produces an environment of fear, mistrust and animosity between our communities and the law enforcement, creating a more precarious environment for all.

The current Stop-and-Frisk program gives the individual police officer almost complete discretion in obstructing the movement of individuals in order to conduct spot-checks. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), in 2011, the NYPD stopped an estimated 684,330 New Yorkers. Approximately 90 percent of those stops were fruitless and did not result in an arrest or summons. Moreover, 53 percent of those stopped were Black, 34 percent were Latino and 9 percent were White. "Furtive movements," was the number one reason reported for the stops. This is undeniably vague reasoning, especially to justify the often aggressive tactics and use of physical force during stops.

Proponents of the program point to a correlation between the crime rate and the racial disparity with those stopped and frisked to support the efficacy of the program. However, the numbers just don't add up. According to a CUNY John Jay School of Criminal Justice 2010 report, in raw numbers, out of 308,101 stops of Black individuals in 2008, 617 guns were recovered; out of 135,026 stops of Hispanic individuals, 121 guns were recovered; and out of 57,650 stops of White individuals, 42 guns were recovered. Stops were somewhat more efficient in recovering other types of weapons, especially among Whites. For every 1,000 White individuals frisked in 2008, officers recovered 36.6 knives or other non firearms. The equivalent return for Hispanics and Blacks was 23.7 and 20.8, respectively. This is a low outcome for the large number of individuals stopped and searched for that year. The same report suggests that in 2009, while the number of stops increased, 1.3 percent of the stops resulted in the discovery of a weapon; 6% of stops resulted in an arrest; and 6.2 percent resulted in the issuance of a summons.

There is no doubt that Stop-and-Frisk does not yield the desired results and it is apparent that it disproportionately targets minority communities. But the policy is not solely a racial issue. It speaks to the "police state" that New York City is quickly becoming, using fear and intimidation as a means to keep people "safe." The acceleration of the program, in addition to recent allegations of spying on Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey, indicate that the NYPD is taking their role as a "paramilitary force" too far. It is clear that the NYPD needs to be reminded of its covenant with the public. We must stand together and demand that New York's "Finest" protect and serve our community with the respect and dignity that the people of New York deserve and pay for.

I call on Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to immediately look into the conduct of the NYPD concerning Stop-and-Frisk. It is a policy that goes against the very principles this country was founded on. This program is an assault on our communities and an affront to our collective humanity.