Monday, March 19, 2012

Stop and Frisk Apartheid Targets the Innocent While Criminals Thrive

Though stop and frisk activity is less effective than random checkpoint stops, New York City's police commissioner has embraced his role as chief apologist for Mayor Bloomberg's racist and despicable stop and frisk obsession while the Village Voice highlighted the NYPD's eagerness to ignore actual criminal activity as it terrorizes innocent men of color in our city with repeated stops.

Stop and Frisk

Though stop and frisk incidents were less than 100,000 per year in our city a recently as 2002, Mayor Bloomberg has set record after record, stopping nearly 700,000 of our neighbors in 2011. Nearly all of those stopped are young men of color, and more than 90% of those stopped are never issued a summons. Though our white neighbors are more than twice as likely to possess illegal weapons when they are stopped, the stop focus nearly exclusively on young men of color.

Ray Kelly, as head of the NYPD, has taken on the role of defending the apartheid regime he enforces in our city. He speaks as if we live in 1912 and references men of color as criminals by virtue of their race and ethnicity. We have called for the Mayor and the police commissioner to resign. In a sense, Ray Kelly's most recent statements suggest that he no longer fears admitting that he runs and apartheid system. Rather than claiming that he doesn't target young men of color for abuse, he has chosen to proclaim that terrorizing communities of color is the best approach to law enforcement in our city.

Tellingly, a federal judge in 2011 supported a law suit based on stop and frisk while attacking the NYPD approach.
As Judge Scheindlin notes in her opinion, a report by the legal scholar Jeffrey Fagan found that blacks and Latinos were more likely to be stopped at police discretion, not just in high-crime, high-minority areas, but in districts where crime is minimal and populations are mixed.
Police officials say that officers stop people when they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. An analysis last year by The Times of street stops in one mainly black Brooklyn neighborhood found that officers listed vague reasons in half the stops, including “furtive movement,” a category that can be used to mask harassment.
The Fagan report found that arrests are made in less than 6 percent of all street stops — a lower rate than if the police simply set up random checkpoints. Less than 1 percent of stops turned up weapons. This suggests that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly minorities, have been stopped for no legitimate reason — or worse, because of the color of their skin.
The Police Department says it has a training program that explains proper arrest procedure and warns officers against racial profiling. But Judge Scheindlin was sharply critical of those efforts, noting that numerous officers did not recall ever receiving such training.
We should repeat the findings cited by the federal judge: The Mayor's apartheid approach is less effective than random checkpoints in catching criminals. Random stops would be more effective than the apartheid approach. If there were nothing morally or legally wrong with Bloomberg's apartheid system, he should end the practice because it is ineffective relative to other options.

In Brooklyn, the precincts with the greatest levels of stop and frisk activity are seeing rising crime. It is obvious that the apartheid approach is failing to address crime while it is succeeding in communicating to communities of color that they are not full citizens and exist to be controlled and abused rather than supported and protected by our city government.

Many of us have suspected that the focus on stopping hundreds of thousands of innocent men of color is interfering with preventing crime. We have considered that innocent people of color are stopped repeatedly while criminals seem to be ignored.

Now we have proof.

Actual Crime Ignored

Village Voice recently highlighted the NYPD's lack of willingness to address criminal activities.

The story starts with a whistle blower in Brooklyn's 81st Precinct. The whistle blower accused the leadership of his precinct of under reporting crime and was abused by the NYPD in retaliation. As the NYPD abused the whistle blower, it hid a two-year old 95-page report on the allegations and corroborated them.
Investigators went beyond [the whistle blower's] specific claims and found many other instances in the 81st Precinct where crime reports were missing, had been misclassified, altered, rejected, or not even entered into the computer system that tracks crime reports.

These weren't minor incidents. The victims included a Chinese-food delivery man robbed and beaten bloody, a man robbed at gunpoint, a cab driver robbed at gunpoint, a woman assaulted and beaten black and blue, a woman beaten by her spouse, and a woman burgled by men who forced their way into her apartment.

"When viewed in their totality, a disturbing pattern is prevalent and gives credence to the allegation that crimes are being improperly reported in order to avoid index-crime classifications," investigators concluded. "This trend is indicative of a concerted effort to deliberately underreport crime in the 81st Precinct."
With the intensity of focus on innocent men of color, we are not surprised that the NYPD has chosen not to focus on actual criminals. Innocent men of color are more willing victims and safer targets for abuse than criminals would be. The victims of the Mayor's apartheid system are innocent people of color. The criminals are the beneficiaries. If the Mayor will not end his apartheid approach, he is unfit to be the Mayor of our city.


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