Despite 88 percent of stop-and-frisk victims being found innocent of any crime last year, recent shootings and violence within the community has some believing stop-and-frisk has the potential to save lives.
“I know a lot of our youth are caught up in a lot of nonsense fighting each other, but you can’t reverse cause and effect,” activist Noche Diaz said. “They’ve been put in this situation. They’ve been degraded and dehumanized by this whole system before they’re even born, set up to be viewed as criminals by this so-called justice system.”
In an attempt to bridge the division between law enforcement and the community, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Dr. Lenora Fulani, co-founder of All Stars, an organization dedicated to promoting human development through the use of an innovative performance-based model, came together to present Cops and Kids.
When asked about what led her and Kelly to come together after her disagreements regarding policing policies, Fulani responded, “Because I’m smart.”
Cops and Kids, first created in 2006 to improve relations between police and inner-city youth, was recently incorporated by the NYPD into its training for police officers.
“The program has helped break down barriers between teens and police officers,” Kelly said at a press conference.
A member of the Cops and Kids workshop, Joshua Brown, said he used to be terrified of police. As a resident of Brownsville, Brooklyn, where the crime rate is relatively high, he said cops and teens in the same room together usually meant “someone is going to jail.”
“Once you have on that uniform, you’re an enemy,” Brown said.
As a result of the workshop, he said he is more comfortable with police and has a much better dialogue with them, which makes for a better community.
But one can see why stop-and-frisk causes tension between the two sides. The NYPD’s policy led police to stop people 685,754 times on city streets last year. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, of those stopped, 53 percent were Black and 34 percent were Latino.
“These groups account for 96 percent of guns,” Kelly said.
Many political groups and politicians, including members of the New York State Assembly and various council members, have been consistently calling for reform of the stop-and-frisk policy.
“Why is it that they stop-and-frisk people who are working, not in the street, not a thug, not a gang member?” asked a Forest Houses resident who believes stop-and-frisk isn’t effective. “They’re not stopping the gang members and getting these guns.”
Another Forest Houses resident who only gave her name as Kathryn said she lost her son to gun violence. Even after living there for 31 years, she said there is no chance that police don’t know where to find people carrying guns.
The Rev. Vernon Williams, a street mediator among youth, said stop-and-frisk could take away guns, but it’s not fair that innocent people get thrown against the wall.
“I believe in coming up with something that works,” Williams said.
However, Jackie Rowe Adams, co-founder of Harlem Mothers Stop Another Violent End, said stop-and-frisk could take more guns off the streets, regardless of the small number of guns found last year.
“I understand that there are many people who will not go along with my decision to support the stop-and-frisk policy, but if the stop-and-frisk policy can make a difference, we need to realize that it’s time to support stop-and-frisk and that such a life as little Lloyd Morgan is worth more than anyone feeling discomfort by being stopped and searched by the police,” State Sen. Ruben Diaz said in a press release.
Community activist A.T. Mitchell disagreed.
“Ninety percent [of people] are harassed and violated, and they’re doing this because a little boy got shot,” Mitchell said. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
State Sen. Eric Adams, City Councilman Jumaane Williams and several community activists wrote a letter to Kelly outlining their concerns regarding stop-and-frisk and offering to take him on a walk through the neighborhood, where he could build stronger ties between himself and the community.
Kelly said he hadn’t received the letter yet.
“We want law enforcement officers and the leaders of our community to come together and sit down at a table,” New York NAACP President Hazel Dukes said. “Look at both things–look at violence and look at stop-and-frisk. Those are two different things.”