Stop-and-Frisk

On Father’s Day thousands marched silently in New York City to protest the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk policy.  This police strategy allows officers to stop and frisk, as its name indicates, anyone who looks criminal or suspicious.  The idea, to stop criminals before they commit a crime, is certainly commendable.  However, the reality of this policy is that is relies on profiling.  The June 17th march protested this reality.  For example, although Blacks and Hispanics make up only 53.6% of the New York City population*, 87% of reported stops by police were for black or Hispanic people.  A minister at Riverside Church, Rev. Stephen Phelps, said “I don’t know a single black or Latino male who doesn’t say he is basically afraid to be out on the streets.”

The silent march

Among those who attended the march were all major candidates in the New York City mayoral race, Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, and the SEIU.  An unlikely partnership evolved out of distrust for the policy–the NAACP and local LGBT rights groups.  One of the main issues for LGBT people seems to be the profiling of trans women as sex workers.  After the devastation of the AIDS crisis, both the black and gay communities specifically have done much work to try to promote safer sex practices.  This includes encouraging sexually active individuals to carry condoms with them.  However, another policy of the NYPD allows officers to arrest any person carrying more than one condom under the suspicion that this person is a sex worker.

Photo Courtesy: Melissa Kleckner

On the two Sundays leading up to the march, Mayor Bloomberg visited two separate predominantly black churches, speaking on behalf of the Stop-and-Frisk policy.  At one of his visits he said, “Policy Commissioner Kelly and I both believe we can do a better job in this area…[but] to borrow a phrase from President Clinton…the practice should be mended, not ended.”  However, with a combination of public distrust with the policy and all major mayoral candidates stating their own dissatisfaction, the future of Stop-and-Frisk looks bleak.

* According to Census 2010

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8 Comments

  1. Against apathy

     /  July 8, 2012

    Great article. The use of condoms as evidence is harmful to public health and of dubious probative value. It is imperative that the legislature pass the bills that have long been proposed outlawing such insanity. See http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S323-2011

    Reply
  2. zzzzz

     /  July 11, 2012

    Just curious as to why it matters that there are lgbtq people against stop and frisk. They are the same as everyone else so that part is irrelevant. As for the rest, the policy is not a bad thing because seeing as the general public likes to be safe, there are no problems. Profiling is an issue that will never go away and the majority of people targeted are clearly profiled based on what they are wearing and the color of their skin. However, with whoever is wrongly accused there is no harm done because they are let on their way but for anyone who is accused and found guilty, all New Yorkers benefit.

    Reply
    • The reason I disagree with your saying that no one is harmed with a simple Stop-and-Frisk check is threefold. One, is the classic slippery slope argument; if we let cops stop and frisk (frisking can be pretty intrusive) people on the streets, what’s next?
      Two, the stopping and frisking is not always the end of the story. Many people are then arrested on minor charges or on suspicion of possession etc.
      Three, one’s clothing, race, or any other immutable characteristic (which includes sexual orientation and gender identity, both of which I’ll comment on in a minute) is not and should not be reason enough to be stopped, let alone be arrested. This policy, because it is so lenient in terms of how it is implemented, allows policemen and women to stop anyone they deem “suspicious” in a society that has unfairly led people to believe that, for example, all black male teenagers are up to no good.

      In terms of lgbtq involvement in the fight against Stop-and-Frisk, the community is standing in solidarity with those who are targeted, and members of the lgbtq community are often target themselves. Gay men, particularly gay men of color, are often stopped and frisked, sometimes simply because a homophobic policeman or woman wants to rough him up. Like my article mentioned, trans women are often targeted because they are assumed to be sex workers–an unfair and incredibly transphobic assumption. Members of the lgbtq community are more likely to be carrying more than one condom with them, and in NYC, this is reason enough to arrest someone on the suspicion that he or she is a sex worker.

      Hope this answered your questions; don’t hesitate to comment back!

      Reply
  3. spldle

     /  July 11, 2012

    I’m gonna have to agree with the z man above. The anti-profiling campaign relies on a gross blindness to the demographics of crime. The simple fact of the matter is that disparities in law enforcement are reflective of the disparities in crime rates; in other words, certain ethnic groups are just statistically more likely than others to commit crimes. Obviously, this situation is far from ideal. However, it is what it is, and if we want to effectively combat crime, we must adopt a strategy that accepts the facts.

    Reply
  4. Penny Ander

     /  July 13, 2012

    I agree with Ms. Velona. We need to be more alert to the dangers of a stop and frisk policy. In an effort to feel “safe”, albeit to have a false sense of security, we can create an unsafe environment. We expose ourselves to having a police state.; where the police have the freedom and we have none. A slippery slope indeed !!!

    Reply
  5. Bill

     /  July 13, 2012

    in my opinion, spldle is 100% correct. to me, race is a completely valid tool for law enforcement officers to identify potential criminals, and for the exact reason spldle listed above: certain ethnic groups are PROVEN to commit more crimes than others. to ignore these cold, hard facts just so that we can feel good about ourselves for “protecting” civil liberties is overly idealistic and incredibly naive. in fact, i believe that strategies similar to NYPD’s “stop and frisk” should be extended to identifying illegal immigrants (as in the arizona law) and identifying potential security threats at airports.

    Reply
  6. Penny Ander

     /  July 13, 2012

    Thank you ! And you are right; we cannot be apathetic. If we are, we can doze off feeling safe and when we wake up it may be too late to remedy a very difficult situation.

    Reply

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