On Sunday, June 17, I participated in the Silent March to End Stop and Frisk. Dr. Edward Williams, president of the Far Rockaway NAACP, was kind enough to allow me to travel on their bus. We were joined by Milan Taylor and the Rockaway Youth Task Force, who also played a role in organizing the trip to the march, as well as Councilman James Sanders and Chief of Staff Donovan Richards.
The march began on 110th Street in Manhattan and proceeded down Fifth Avenue to 79th Street. Appropriately, it ended near Mayor Bloomberg's residence. In response to criticisms of the policy, the mayor has recently been calling for Stop and Frisk to be "mended, not ended." Although this was a silent march, thousands of us spoke loudly: end Stop and Frisk.
I have been calling for an investigation. Constitutional law requires officers to have reasonable suspicion anyone stopped and frisked is armed and dangerous. According to the NYPD's own data, 88% of those stopped and frisked last year were innocent. If they're wrong almost nine times out of ten, it's clear they're not only stopping and frisking with reasonable suspicion. What, then, is their basis for determining it should happen to someone?
Aside from the legal implications, the policy is immoral and ineffective. It's a form of psychological warfare. It makes people feel guilty and unwelcome in their own neighborhoods. It makes people distrust police. Let's be honest: it furthers racial stereotyping. The mayor attributes a decrease in crime to the policy. That claim is dubious in itself; a correlation does not establish causation. However, even assuming the claim is accurate, it will have devastating long term effects. When someone is abusive, we don't celebrate that the victim modified his or her behavior in response to being abused. We condemn abuse because of the long lasting harm it causes. Stop and Frisk is as abusive as it is unconstitutional.
We as a people should demand legislation to end profiling. There was recently a bill in the House that would "prohibit any federal funds from flowing to law enforcement organizations that engage in any form of racial, ethnic, or religious profiling." I lend my full support to this and measures like it. Unfortunately, the bill failed on the House floor:
"The bill failed on a mostly party line vote of 193-232, but all of the city's Democratic representatives [who were present] voted in favor of the bill. Three New York Democrats from outside the city -- Kathy Hochul, Brian Higgins and Carolyn McCarthy -- were among the eight Democrats who voted against it. (Gregory Meeks and Louise Slaughter, who is recovering from a broken leg, didn't vote.)" - Source: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/politics/2012/05/5884382/city-dems-vote-house-bill-would-defund-nypd-profiling-king-loudly-o
And so the march continues.