The ruling handed down by Manhattan Federal Court Judge Shira Scheindlin is only the first of what many hope will be a string of rulings making stop-and-frisk unconstitutional.
In a sweeping decision, Scheindlin ruled that police cannot, under the NYPD’s Clean Halls program, make trespass stops or stop-and-frisks outside the 3,200 private residential buildings enrolled in the program.
What this means is that unlike inside the building, where landlords have invited the police to patrol and the police may stop people at will, folks who are outside on the street can’t be stopped under the Clean Halls program.
This is a major victory against stop-and-frisk. It is the first meaningful step in ending a practice that is so discriminatory against people of color, especially young men.
This program of stop-and-frisk has put an unwarranted stigma on Black men and has created an atmosphere of resentment and lack of trust for many in police uniform, or undercover. For many young men of color, their only interaction with the police is negative. The police stop-and-frisk campaign has had an alarming impact on our community. In some neighborhoods, the number of stops exceeds the number of men, indicating that some men may be subjected to stop-and-frisks several times each year.
And when that number is 700,000 in 2011, that meant that practically every family of color knew or had a member stopped and frisked by the police.
In fact, stop-and-frisk has not worked. It has yielded so little in return for what it has done to relations between the police and community, as well as the impact it has had on the psychological well-being of residents.
There was a time when police and community had a more positive relationship, when CPR (Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect) was making some headway. When the police on the beat knew the kids on the street, and vice versa.
There was once an ability to communicate an understanding that the police were trying to keep the community safe. Now there is little interaction on a pleasant basis between police and those they watch over. Cops in police cars patrol the neighborhoods, exiting only when necessary to make a stop-and-frisk or respond to a call. There is no communication. There are no pleasantries shared. The police don’t know that this kid is a straight-A student or a star debater; to them, he is just a Black kid wearing a hoodie.
We need to go back to the kind of community policing where the relationships run deep and there is a commitment to the areas where the officers serve. Maybe rulings like this will start to push the city in the right direction, and we will get to a place where community policing overshadows stop-and-frisk, and together we can build a stronger city where there is trust and respect for the citizenry and the police.