The Big Decision: Stop-And-Frisk Must Go

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[Election 2013: Speaking Truth To Power]

As New York City residents await Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s decision in the Floyd v. City of New York case, especially in the Black community and Latino communities, Democratic mayoral candidate William Thompson seems to think this racist NYPD policing practice is not that bad—and warned of an “overreaction to Stop-and-Frisk.”

Does Mr. Thompson really believe that, or, is he just saying this to pander to the votes of New York City’s White community? Polls show that the majority of White New Yorkers approve of this apartheid-type policing.

Of the more than 700,000 people stopped by police two years ago 90% were Black or Latino. Weapons or illegal substances are found in less than one-in-10 cases.

Recently, Mr. Thompson received the endorsement of several unions which represent thousands of New York City law enforcement officials who are said to be in favor of his message to keep the Stop-and-Frisk policing practice in place.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 59 percent of White voters approved of Stop-and-Frisk—although 72 percent of Blacks and 58 percent of Latinos disapproved of the practice. Mr. Thompson has also garnered the support from political powers deeply invested in the racially polarizing practice: former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mr. Giuliani, credited by some with reducing crime in the city, implemented aggressive policing tactics against African-Americans and Latinos. Under his watch, crime control collided with the city’s population of color—who were seen by many Whites as the face of criminality in New York City.

And during that time two of New York City’s most infamous cases of horrible police abuse occurred: the beating and sodomizing of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima inside a Brooklyn police precinct and the 40-shot-execution of African immigrant Amadou Diallo outside of the Bronx building where he lived.

Mr. Thompson’s stance on this critical issue to the Black and Latino community is causing some important political players in New York City to be wary of backing his mayoral candidacy. “I don’t think it’s wise to be distant from a social movement if you are going to run for mayor of this city, especially as a Black candidate,” said Rev. Al Sharpton whose endorsement would be crucial in securing the vote of African-Americans. “I have expressed this to Thompson.” The National Action Network leader and host of "Politics Nation" on MSNBC also added: “This is not a marginal issue.”

On Monday, Brooklyn City Council candidate Kirsten John Foy said he would not collect signatures to have Mr. Thompson put on Democratic primary ballots in Brooklyn. “The civil rights community has made it clear: Stop, question and frisk is at the top of its agenda, and Mr. Thompson has shunned that. He’s going to be a fourth term of Bloomberg in terms of policing. We don’t need a fourth term in terms of anything” said Foy.

Mr. Foy, who is running for a Council seat in Bedford-Stuyvesant, also said of Thompson: “I consider him a good man, but I think he’s on the wrong side of history.”

Indeed.

Stop-and-Frisk must be stopped if we’re serious about having an impact on improving the lives of young Black and Latino men who are currently victims of this racist criminalizing police practice. This police policy isn’t meant to prevent criminality—it is meant to criminalize and victimize those being targeted. Especially in the aftermath of the Floyd v City of New York trial, this truth is now quite clear.

Most media don't discuss the massive cut in social and recreation programs and the unemployment rates that are more than 50% in some age ranges among Black youth as a factor. They are portrayed as predicate criminals.

By now, we all know the dismal statistics—and racial profiling—surrounding Stop-and-Frisk. The Center for Constitutional Rights has documented that the NYPD engages in “race-based” stops and that Blacks were “significantly more likely to be stopped than Whites.” Blacks were stopped 84 percent of the time “a far higher percentage than their proportion of the city’s population.” The Center also said “95,000 stops lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion” and used “highly subjective and constitutionally questionable categories” such as a suspect’s, supposed, “furtive movements” or the suspect’s proximity to a “high crime area.”

Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly claim Stop-and-Frisk has been important in curbing crime. But where is the evidence to justify this assertion? 

As The Center for Constitutional Rights pointed out Stop-and-Frisk statistics show “only 6 percent of stops result in arrest, an extraordinarily small number given that stops are legally supposed to be based on reasonable, articulable suspicion. The rates of seizure of weapons or contraband are miniscule—.12% of stops yield gun seizures and 1.8% contraband—and are lower than the seizure rates of random stops.”For years, we’ve been told that heavy-handed policing is necessary in Black and Latino communities to reduce the level of violence. But this assertion is a deceitful excuse that is being used to criminalize generations of minority males into the criminal justice system—a practice that will hamper their future lives as they attempt to gain employment and such.Of course the practice also creates jobs for the Upstate communities where the prisons that warehouse them are built.

If Mayor Bloomberg is really concerned with making a valuable contribution to helping communities of color, where are his revitalization and anti-poverty programs? Far from trying to create economic opportunities for the youth this mayor’s NYPD is adding insult to injury by the program of writing up tickets and summons against them.

Much of the violence in Black and Latino is inextricably linked to economics and the high levels of unemployment and underemployment that is ignored by politicians like Mr. Bloomberg. Unfortunately, we now have an African-American politician promising Black New Yorkers more of the same backward prejudiced policies that was initiated by Mayor Giuliani and continued by Mayor Bloomberg. Recently, it was reported that Mr. Thompson got incensed when he was challenged by New York City Comptroller John Liu. Mr. Liu—of Asian descent—has come out strongly against Stop-and-Frisk—saying the practice should be abolished.

How is it that Mr. Liu can take a principle stand while Mr. Thompson promises Black New Yorkers they can expect more police harassment, brutality and violations of their Fourth Amendment Rights? Is Mr. Thompson attempting to curry favor with Whites—to obtain their vote—by assuaging their fears that no breakdown of “law and order” will happen if he is elected mayor? It’s hard to see this as anything else, because the data tells us Stop-and-Frisk isn’t stopping crime or netting any substantial seizures of guns and such off the streets. But this policy has had a nefarious effect on the lives of African-Americans.

For years we’ve known that legions of African-Americans have been targeted for America’s prison pipeline. There are reports which indicate the NYPD engages in the criminal cataloguing of Black males from their teenage years. This is an outrage. Unfortunately, politicians like Mr. Thompson want the votes of our people without standing up for our interests—a point that was made forcefully by Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams who said: “I think he believes that the color of his skin is what’s needed to get to communities of color, rather than standing on the correct substance of issues.”

However, the political bedfellows Mr. Thompson is now sleeping with make it highly unlikely he will stand up for the Black and Latino communities against police brutality. His endorsement by New York City law enforcement unions and the praises he has received from Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Giuliani is a telling sign that this is just another Black politician who is willing to barter with the liberties of our people for personal gain. The time has come for us to reject this type of Black political leadership. 

 

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