The NYPD’s practice of stop-and-frisk is again in the spotlight with the arrest of Black City Council Member Jumaane Williams and public advocate aid Kirsten Foy.
To many Black and Latino males in New York City, the practice has become a way of life, and now it is a federal issue. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin recently ruled in Manhattan federal court that the 2008 class-action lawsuit seeking to hold New York City and the New York Police Department liable for any failures to carry out its stop-and-frisk policies in an unbiased manner has presented valid allegations sufficient for trial.
In June, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) reported that the NYPD stopped and interrogated more than 161,000 completely innocent New Yorkers in the first quarter of 2011, the highest number over a three-month period since the NYPD began reporting data on its troubling stop-and-frisk program.
About 88 percent of the 183,326 stop-and-frisk encounters recorded from January through March resulted in neither an arrest nor a summons, according to figures released over the weekend. About 84 percent of those stopped by police were Black or Latino.
“The NYPD is turning Black and Brown neighborhoods across New York City into Constitution-free zones,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “A trip to the corner store should not have to include the assumption that you’ll have to explain yourself to the police, but that is the troubling reality for residents in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods.”
According to a report from the RAND Corporation, “Black pedestrians were stopped at a rate that is 50 percent greater than their representation in the residential census.” Gun violence is also on the rise in neighborhoods that see the most stop-and-frisks.
Ironically, just days before his own allegedly racially motivated arrest by the NYPD, Williams praised Scheindlin’s ruling saying that it’s better validation than what he got from the mayor on the issue.
“I am glad that the case against stop-and-frisk is moving forward,” Williams said. “Stop-and-frisk is a legitimate tool that has been misused and abused in communities of color. In no other community would this behavior be tolerated. This is clearly a case of racial profiling, a fact that even studies commissioned by the NYPD have shown to be true.”
Williams added that police officers should be more empowered to patrol streets using instinct and solid evidence instead of racial quotas that they are pressured to fill.
The NYPD maintains that it does not use race as a factor when using the stop-and-frisk practice.