Fight Back To Abolish NYPD's Stop-and-Frisk Regime

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

This Friday, January 27, at 1p.m., a community campaign protesting the NYPD’s controversial use of the Stop-and-Frisk police practice in communities of color will take place at 149 St. and Third Avenue in the Bronx.

The action was planned by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, an organization started last July to focus “on the best methods to counter the inhumane 'New Jim Crow' currently enforced by the U.S. criminal injustice system.” 

The organization states they were “Inspired by the Freedom Riders of the 1960’s,” and have declared their intent “on taking action against the New York Police Department's 'stop and frisk' policy, which serves as a pipeline into the mass incarceration system.”  They’ve also pledged to “accelerate the movement to stop the injustice of mass incarceration and police brutality; the racially biased policies and practices of the police, the courts and the U.S. legal system; and to support the human rights of prisoners and of the formerly incarcerated.”

The statistics of the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk policy is truly telling and alarming. Here are a few figures to consider.

According to an analysis by the (NYCLU) New York Civil Liberties Union, “more than 4 million innocent New Yorkers were subjected to police stops and street interrogations from 2004 through 2011… Black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports. ”

The Stop-and-Frisk figures also underscore this: over 80 percent—in some years close to 90 percent—of those, being stopped by the NYPD, are either African-Americans or Latino. African-Americans are stopped over 50 percent of the time and Latinos over 30 percent of the time. Whites are stopped 9 percent of the time—though some believe this figure is even lower.

In the past few months, there’ve been several actions, in New York City, taken to protest the NYPD’s proclivity for targeting African-Americans and Latinos using the Stop-and-Frisk technique. On Martin Luther King Day, the issue was addressed by Rev. Al Sharpton, the National Action Network and activists fighting this practice. Recently, New York City Councilwoman Leticia James and Michael Alexander—author of the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness—have spoken out forcefully denouncing the use of Stop-and-Frisk. And several months ago, Professor Cornell West was arrested while protesting the matter in Harlem.

Mary Black, who has experienced the use of Stop-and-Frisk, is among those shaping community resistance to this policing practice. Ms. Black recently organized a rally entitled “Stop Stop and Frisk Campaign,” in Harlem, to protest the pernicious police use of this tactic. The Harlem mother’s activism commenced after she witnessed the repeated police harassment of her son.

Since last June, Ms. Black’s 16-year-old son was stopped three times, in six months, by the NYPD. The stops all led to her son being given several summonses. Tickets and summonses are seen by many as another form of economic exploitation aimed at African-Americans and Latinos.

After Black realized Stop-and-Frisk was being used routinely, she decided to speak out on the issue. Unfortunately, she has been only able to garner minimal community support. At her first rally, although she handed out 750 flyers, only 15 people showed up.  “They’re afraid” Black said, explaining the reluctance by segments of the community to speak out. “That’s the saddest part,” Black says. “Everybody knows stop-and-frisk is an injustice but it’s like you’re fighting by yourself.”

Another reason cited, for the silence by some on this matter, is the fear of crime. “Most of the more established members of these communities, like homeowners, religious leaders and community board members are often more concerned about crime than civil liberties violations,” noted Brooklyn College sociology Professor Alex Vitale. He also warned that “The police have been very successful at painting critics as either pro- or anti-police.” Professor Vitale also points out that the New York Police Department's intransigence allows “no room for positive constructive criticism.”

However, others elsewhere are mobilizing to fight this NYPD practice. The NYCLU, along with the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, prominent academics—and even the New York Times—have launched litigation to challenge the NYPD’s alleged attempts at avoiding full disclosure of all information pertaining to the use of Stop-and-Frisk.

Isn’t it well past time African-Americans again start battling the racist practices of police? We should all be clear on this fact: the NYPD—and other white-controlled police departments across the country—will never police minority communities with the appropriate respect. Question: who dictates police policy for the Black community? Who holds them accountable?

Fear of crime in Black neighborhoods is understandable. Yet, can crime be permanently reduced in our communities if we don’t deal effectively with the pathology of White supremacy that has plagued us for centuries? For, as Dr. Amos Wilson, stated in his book Black-on-Black Violence “To discuss crime and criminology without reference to a social system is to engage in meaningless discussion.”

Ironically, those acting as law enforcement saviors are really the major purveyors of creating criminality in the community. Why do we accept the writing of police policy, for us, by those who can’t be held accountable by us? The reality is Stop-and-Frisk is just the latest twist in an old story of projecting criminality upon our people. Unfortunately, this tendency has worked with devastating consequences. Daily, many Black men are processed through New York City’s legal system for minor infractions—and some no doubt are arrested on trumped up charges.

Recently, we’ve all heard reports of African-American males being routinely arrested for possessing minor amounts of marijuana in areas like Brooklyn, Bronx and Harlem. Are they trying to tell us whites in Park Avenue and on Wall Street don’t smoke pot? For decades there was a disparity in sentencing between Blacks caught with crack-cocaine and Whites with powder-cocaine.

The truth is Stop-and-Frisk is just another racist police profiling procedure designed to afflict minority communities. The time has come to fight racist police practices in the NYPD—and in police departments nationwide.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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