Sound the alarm, the numbers are in: This week, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) released statistics revealing the 10 precincts where cops make the most stop-and-frisks.
The NYCLU said that over 684,000 stops were made last year, a 14 percent increase from 2010, and less than 10 percent of the stops resulted in arrests.
Perhaps you are a young Black male running to the store for your ma or are on your way home from school, rushing to get to your little part-time job or maybe you are just standing with friends minding your own, and then you get vamped on by a crew of cops or a duo.
You get thrown against a wall or a car or you just have to stand there while you’re forced to answer X amount of questions as your pockets are being emptied and you’re patted down. No arrest, no apology–just the humiliation and lingering feeling that police containment is the order of the day.
Maybe you are driving through any of the five boroughs and you witness the NYPD rushing some youth. Most keep it moving, but some New Yorkers confront the confrontation and ask the police officers what is going on or they record it or simply watch, hence the formation of organizations such as Cop Watch by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
According to the NYCLU’s figures, if you live in the 75th Precinct–East New York, Brooklyn–you might be or know one of the 31,100 people who were stopped and frisked by a member of the NYPD. If you live next door, in the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, you might be aware that 25,167 fellow residents were stopped.
Contributing to the grand total is the 115th Precinct–East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, Queens–with 18,156, and holding it down in the 17,000s are the 40th Precinct, South Bronx; 90th Precinct, Williamsburg; 43rd Precinct, southeast Bronx; 103rd Precinct, Jamaica, Queens; and rounding up the top 10 with stop-and-frisks in the 16,000s are the 44th Precinct in the Bronx and the 120th Precinct in Staten Island.
Adding to a furious grassroots critique of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policies is last Sunday’s scathing report by the New York Times.
“Attorney General Eric Holder is rightly reviewing the constitutionally suspect surveillance practices that the New York City Police Department has employed against law-abiding Muslims,” stated the Times. “The Justice Department should also review other practices–chief among them, stop-and-frisk–that have virtually eliminated the presumption of innocence and that treat citizens, and even entire communities, as suspect even after they are proved innocent.”
“The latest disclosure of statistics by both the ACLU and NYCLU continues to expose the erosion, if not outright denial, of the civil liberties of the most vulnerable New Yorkers due to factors of race, ethnicity, class and religion,” said Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, president of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York.
The activist imam who organized a forum at Riverside Church last week to talk about police-community relations told the AmNews, “Under the command leadership of Commissioner Ray Kelly, the NYPD manipulates its COMSTAT numbers, beats up young people in Zuccotti Park and covers all Muslims from here to Connecticut with a web of surveillance–all in the name of fighting crime and terrorism.
“This is done with no sense of accountability to the public or its elected representatives. All the while, Mayor Bloomberg continues to make it abundantly clear that this out-of-control agency [the NYPD] and its head can do no wrong in his eyes when it comes to the poor, young, people of color and Muslims. What a third term of office this has turned out to be.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the police tactic as an effective tool to deter crime, but he did not respond to an AmNews request for comment.
“[It] stops crime and saves lives,” Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne told the AmNews of the controversial NYPD policy. “A big spike in robberies earlier in the year in the 90th Precinct was reduced later in the year in the wake of stops. The analogy between arrests and stops is false. An arrest requires the higher level of probable cause; stops only reasonable suspicion.
“Arrests don’t measure the success of stops. Crime prevention does. You may have two or three young men waiting outside a bodega at closing time intent on robbing the owner in a strong-armed robbery. A stop by officers may not produce an arrest, but it has prevented a crime.”
However, the Times editorial stated, “The Police Department’s tendency toward blanket surveillance is on vivid display in its stop-and-frisk program, which results in the stopping of more than 600,000 mainly minority citizens on the streets every year. The department credits the program with reducing crime, but there is no proof that it does. A study carried out in connection with a federal lawsuit against the department has found that only about 6 percent of stops result in arrest and that less than 1 percent turn up weapons.”
Retired Detective Marquez Claxton refused to be swayed by the police response or amazed by the newly released stats. “Every stat, study and report will confirm what is already known,” he told the AmNews. “The NYPD is engaged in systemic race-based enforcement and racial profiling. It continues because of a lack of actual political power and the complicity of many influential people.
“The unavoidable truth is that far too many people who will publicly criticize it privately support heavy-handed, unlawful treatment of Blacks and Latinos. They have accepted the misguided, wrong-headed police state strategy of Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly. They are thumbing their noses at civil rights.”
“We are so sick and tired of this,” proclaimed East New York Councilman Charles Barron. “I am calling on all politicians to drive around their districts and challenge these stops-and-frisks. I have been doing it for a while, and I get out of my car and demand to know why the individual has been stopped and why the police are acting illegally and unconstitutionally and violating [people’s] human rights to move freely in their neighborhoods.”
Barron, who represents the 75th Precinct, announced, “We can’t wait for legislation. We can’t wait for Ray Kelly because he doesn’t give a damn. We must patrol our own neighborhoods, because our youngsters are the ones getting arrested. Once that happens, they have to put it on their employment applications for life and it messes them up. We need to attack this policy legally, legislatively and in the streets because the NYPD is out of control.”
Last week, Kelly spoke at a testy Public Safety Committee budget hearing.
“What have you said about how to stop this violence?” asked Kelly. “What have the leaders of these communities of color said? What is their tactic and strategy to get guns off the street?”
Council Member Jumaane D. Williams responded swiftly to Kelly’s comments.
“What my colleagues, members of the media and observers witnessed yesterday was a NYPD commissioner on the defensive, forced to defend the fiscal and environmental consequences of unjust policing practices like the department’s use of stop, question and frisk.
“Faced with the legitimate concerns of council members, unfavorable polling data and statistics from his own department, which call their policies into serious question, Commissioner Kelly alleged that there is no leadership coming from my colleagues or I on reducing violence in communities of more color.”
Williams, who is co-chair of the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, noted that political and community leaders have always been at the forefront of combating violence in the communities they serve or live in.
“I find this laughable. No one is more committed to reducing violence in communities of more color than the members of those communities,” said Williams. “We work closely with our local precincts, clergy councils and block associations to advocate for the best police coverage of our streets.”
The Brooklyn councilman stated that Kelly has failed to demonstrate real leadership, which “would be standing up and admitting that’s there more than concern over stop, question and frisk, that there’s a serious problem.”
Real leadership, Williams proposed, would be meeting with young Black and Latino New Yorkers and listening to their concerns. “Real leadership would be de-emphasizing quotas, or ‘productivity goals,’ and re-emphasizing good police work,” he said. “Real leadership would be actually speaking with other city agencies like the Department for Youth and Community Development to discuss the relationship between violent crime and youth development; gun violence is an epidemic with multiple symptoms such as chronic poverty and underfunded youth services, and not addressing all of those symptoms in concert is senseless.”
Williams concluded that as poverty and a lack of resources for effective services remain a key player in much of the social dysfunction, “in the absence of Commissioner Kelly’s real leadership, my colleagues and I will continue to pursue meaningful reform that brings about safer streets for all New Yorkers, as opposed to discriminatory and lazy policing.”