Yesterday, federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that the stop-and-frisk policies of the New York City Police Department violate the constitutional rights of the city’s residents. (Read the full opinion.) While New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration have cited stop-and-frisk as a key factor in decreasing NYC’s murder and major crime rates, data tells a different story and the tactic has long been criticized for its focus on black and Latino residents. What follows is a roundup of reactions to the ruling. Share more in comments.
The New York Times compiled a video of reactions to the judge’s ruling, featuring residents of Brownsville, Brooklyn. Says one young man, identified as Darnell Rose:
“It’s definitely a good thing. Definitely. Because I don’t have to walk and look over my shoulder and worry about, you know, undercovers running up on me, jacking me up, harassing me…I could be coming from the store, minding my own business or getting off of work and they just look at me and feel like, ‘Yeah, let’s get this guy right here.’ Like, hey buddy, what’s the problem? It’s uncalled for.”
I. Bennett Capers, wrote in a Times editorial:
MY husband and I are about the same age and build, wear the same clothes and share the same gender, but I am far more likely to be stopped by the police. This isn’t because I have a criminal record or engage in furtive movements. Nor is my husband a choirboy. Statistically speaking, it’s because I’m black and he’s white. [...] even if these practices were constitutional, they’re still a bad idea. Of course, one wouldn’t know that listening to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other true believers, who insist that aggressive stop-and-frisks have reduced violent crime. But they’re wrong.
The most obvious reason is the brute numbers. For every 100 individuals stopped and frisked, only about 6 are arrested, often for minor offenses like marijuana possession. The success rate for finding a gun borders on the nonexistent: 1 in every 1,000 stops. In fact, purely random stops have produced better results. [...]
And there is a more important argument that isn’t captured by the numbers. Aggressive stop-and-frisks sow community distrust of the police and actually inhibit crime control, creating a generation of disaffected minority youths who believe that cops are racists. Read more…
In an insightful conversation on Branch, participants debated the merits of the ruling, with Al Jazeera producer Osman Norr offering:
“I think, taken together with Holder’s comments on mandatory minimums, the DoJ is starting to carve out a distinct position.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates recommends readers revisit the This American Life piece, “Is that a Tape Recorder in your Pocket or are you Just Unhappy to See Me,” about Officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who secretly recorded his supervisors telling officers to manipulate crime statistics and make illegal arrests:
Ira Glass: Adrian Schoolcraft says he isn’t exactly sure when, but at some point he had decided that it was important to document the orders that he was given that he thought were out of line. He recorded roll calls where officers were constantly being told to do more stop-and-frisks, even though it’s illegal to stop a random person on the street and frisk them without reasonable suspicion. In December 2008, a sergeant tells officers to stop-and-frisk quote, “anybody walking around, no matter what the explanation is.” He recorded Stephen Mauriello, the commander the 81st precinct– and the person Adrian Schoolcraft says really brought the hammer down for higher numbers– ordering the officers to arrest everyone they see. This happens in a couple of recordings, like this one from Halloween 2008.
Stephen Mauriello: Any roving bands– you hear me– roving bands more than two or three people–
Ira Glass: He’s saying “any roving bands of more than two or three people”– he’s talking about just people going around on Halloween night–
Stephen Mauriello: I want them stopped–
Ira Glass: I want them stopped–
Stephen Mauriello: –cuffed–
Stephen Mauriello: –throw them in here, run some warrants.
Ira Glass: –throw them in here, run some warrants.
Stephen Mauriello: You’re on a foot post? [BLEEP] it. Take the first guy you’ve got and lock them all up. Boom.
Ira Glass: You’re on a foot post? F it. Take the first guy you’ve got, lock them all up. Boom.
Stephen Mauriello: We’re going to go back out and process them later on, I’ve got no problems–
Ira Glass: –go back out and then we’ll come back in and process them later on.”
Adrian Schoolcraft: Yes. Yeah, what he’s saying is, arrest people simply for the purpose of clearing the streets.
The blog Civilly Minded wondered whether law enforcement should have their own version of the physicians Hippocratic Oath:
The physician’s oath — ‘First Do No Harm’ — is well known.1 It is also well conceived. A human being is a complex organism. A physical intervention can have unintended consequences. In the worst cases, the results of the intervention can be irreparable and even deadly.
The Hippocratic Oath is said to encourage rigor, honesty, and integrity among physicians, and helps ensure the minimization and justification of any adverse effects their work may have on people. Perhaps the police should swear to a Hippocratic Oath of their own. Read more…
Image Credit: The Guardian