New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have indicated that they do not believe in bias-based policing. If this is true, then why the resistance to Intro. 800-A, a bill that would prohibit bias-based profiling by law enforcement officers? Currently, New York City already has laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion and national origin; however, discrimination protections do not extend to categories of age, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability or housing status. And the current rules lack an enforcement mechanism, which would be added by the new bill.
If we New Yorkers envision a better city in which all people are safe and free from discrimination and profiling, then we need laws protecting the communities who are most targeted. Our laws need to enforce non-racist, non-homophobic, non-sexist, non-transphobic and overall non-oppressive behaviors. We cannot live in a society where the people who are authorized to "protect and serve" us are the ones re-enforcing and institutionalizing the harm.
I am a young, queer Latino who loves this city and finds refuge in its neighborhoods, especially the West Village. But because of who I am, and because some of the places I hang out are predominately white-residential areas, I become a likely target to be stopped and questioned about my presence, what I am doing or who I am with. If I happen not to be stopped, I still walk daily with the fear and anxiety that at any moment I could be.
Stop-and-frisk statistics point to an epidemic of bias-based policing. According to the latest report from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the West Village, where I spend a significant amount of time, experienced a 23-percent increase in stops last year. Additionally, 83.5 percent of stops made were of blacks and Latinos -- this in a neighborhood where these minority groups make up only 8 percent of residents. These stops occur far too often to queer youth of color while they are hanging out with friends, searching for jobs, traveling to school and home or surviving as homeless youth on the streets or in shelters.
The impact of not passing and implementing Intro. 800-A is that communities, specifically young communities of color, will continue to be targeted and harassed on the streets and in establishments solely on the basis of their identities. As LGBTQ people living in New York, we are subjected to harmful practices like stop-and-frisk because our gender identities are different from the "norms" of society, because our sexual orientations become justification for stares, questions or comments and, for many of us, because our ages are enough to incite assumptions that if we are walking down the street in a group, we must be doing something delinquent. LGBTQ youth already experience enough discrimination and prejudice in our lives. We do not deserve to be targets of discrimination by the NYPD as well.
Elected officials, like the mayor and city council members, need to support Intro. 800-A. This is a bill that we urgently and desperately need to ensure safety on our streets, in our neighborhoods and throughout this city we call home.