The Error with the “Stop & Frisk” Era

In New York City between 2004 and 2012, 4 million New Yorkers were stopped by the NYPD; 84 percent of those stopped were of black and Latino origin. This is commonly known as “stop & frisk,” or “stop, ask & frisk.” As far as the “John Q” public is concerned and can remember, this practice and term is rooted in “racial profiling.” Racial profiling disproportionately targets people of color for investigation and enforcement, alienating communities from law enforcement, hindering community policing efforts, and causing law enforcement to lose credibility and trust among the people they are sworn to protect and serve. We rely on the police to protect us from harm and to promote fairness and justice in our communities. The despicable practice of racial profiling, however, has led countless people to live in fear and created a system of law enforcement that casts entire communities as suspect. This abuse of authority presents a great danger to the fundamental principles of our Constitution. Recently U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin said “stop & frisk” is unconstitutional because it intentionally discriminates based on race. In addition to using body cameras, she named an independent monitor to develop reforms to the policy and provide the police department with training and supervision.

For immediate review, The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) is an amendment to the United States Constitution and part of the Bill of Rights. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. Not that it matters, but we tend to overlook the entire amendment or fail to understand it completely. As citizens of this country we ALL expect to be treated as “free” and be able to walk as such and not be harassed by those sworn to uphold the law. The numbers spouted off about the crime rates dropping in New York City because of “stop & fisk” are not impressive because these are cloaked in lawless behavior, wrapped in an attitude of racism that has been designed by egregious misuses and abuses of authority. When this becomes the allowed norm in our cities and community, it creates an unconscionable fear and a lack of regard and respect for anyone in uniform and for anyone wearing a uniform that does not look those being stopped. Fear is the perpetuated, and out of fear there can and never will be respect or positive regard.

Even with the federal ruling, the detailed defense and offense offered by those in police authority in New York and other cities across the country, is BROKEN. Not only with this policy, but unfortunately, it trickles both up and down throughout our entire criminal justice system. This is daily apparent on our streets and in our communities. However, this is not a new practice. It is evident in the Rodney King police beating of 1991, the Central Park Five case of 1989 out of New York City and it’s still yet unsettled civil lawsuit with the five black and Latino men who served time for a crime they did not commit and have since been exonerated. These along with the “stand your ground law” and other local, state and federal ordinances and laws are blatant traps set to harm, incarcerate and even kill those who have black or brown skin. As seen with the following police and unlawful killings of Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Ramarley Gramham, Sholiver Dosher, Kimani Gray, Sean Bell, Malcolm Davis, Trayvon Martin and so many others. There is an obvious anarchistic, heterodox encapsulated by a misappropriation of sanctioned misconduct that is creating warlike mentalities within the community. This falls right in line with what author Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness notes as she reviews a system of racial and social control, leading to a new millennium, racial underclass. This system of racism cannot be dismantled merely by or with piecemeal reform or court decisions. An overhaul of a corrupt injustice system is required more than ever before, as no task is more urgent for racial justice advocates than ensuring that America’s current racial caste system is its last.

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