We must end stop and frisk

Crime reduction tactics should be effective and they should facilitate people feeling safer in their neighborhoods. Stop and frisk laws, popular in many cities and recently defended by New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, don’t do this. Instead they intimidate young men of color, instill fear in communities, restrict decision-making and mobility and permit racial profiling.

Don’t believe me? After Bloomberg’s defense, Think Progress gave us a run-down of numbers we should know about the consequences of stop and frisk laws. Here are a few notable points,

1. In 2011, NYC officers made 685,724 stops as part of the “stop-and-frisk” policy. Of that group, 605,328 people were determined not to have engaged in any unlawful behavior. [NYCLU]

4. More than half of all stops last year were conducted “because the individual displayed ‘furtive movement’ — which is so vague as to be meaningless.” [NYT, 5/14/12]

6. 85% of those stopped were black or Hispanic even though those groups make up about half of NYC’s population. [NYT, 5/17/12]

7. Young black and Latino men account for 4.7% of NYC’s population but 41.6% of the stops in 2011. [NYCLU]

8. The number of stops involving young black men in 2011 (168,124) exceed the city’s population of young black men (158,406).[NYT, 5/15/12]

9. Even in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods, police stopped more blacks than whites.[NYT, 5/15/12]

If those numbers alone don’t make you question the true justice in stop and frisk laws, try this instead–a short documentary  for the New York Times about the consequences of a young boy who was stopped by police at least 60 times between the ages of 15-18 in Brooklyn, NY. From the accompanying article, 

By his count, before his 18th birthday, he had been unjustifiably stopped by the police more than 60 times. On several occasions, merely because he asked why he had been stopped, he was handcuffed, placed in a cell and detained for hours before being released without charges. These experiences were scarring; Mr. Brehon did whatever he could to avoid the police, often feeling as if he were a prisoner in his home.

His fear of the police also set back his education. At one high school he attended, he recoiled at the heavy presence of armed officers and school security agents. “I would do stuff that would get me suspended so I could be, like, completely away from the cops,” he recalled. He would arrive late, cut classes and refuse to wear the school uniform. Eventually, he was expelled.

Mr. Brehon’s life turned around when he transferred to Bushwick Community High School and joined Make the Road New York, a community organizing group that is part of Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of organizations. Because of his experiences, he now hopes to attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice and to become a lawyer, in part so he can help others who are subjected to racial profiling.

I am struck so much by how much people of color are forced to compensate for the impact of police in their lives–whether it is to stay inside and feel restricted or programs that support the needs of those consistently profiled. While I’m so glad they have this kind of support, I am struck by how unjust it is that they need them, how rarely you have this kind of need in predominantly white communities and how much it impacts the future of these youth, both in what they believe they are capable of and how much race will determine what they have access to in later years.

Tyquan Brehon is one of thousands of kids who is exposed to racial profiling, robbed of innocence or youth by unjust cops that need to deliver numbers and be tough on crime. And he’s bright and has gotten the support of members in his community–but many youth don’t have that, they just live in fear.

Frustrated by Stop and Frisk? There will be a rally this Sunday (Father’s Day) to oppose NY’s harsh stop and frisk laws. Zerlina wrote about it here and you can get more info on the flyer above.

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One Comment

  1. Posted June 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Another nasty intersection of racism & sexism.

    Is it technically possible yet, I wonder, to have every police officer wear a camera recording everything they do during their entire shift, and make that video log publicly accessible? I think it would go a long way to have the watchers know that they too are being watched.

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