Federal Court Deliberates Relevance of Stop-and-Frisks

Black Lives Matter

Under the administration of New York City Mayor, the number of stop-and-frisks has risen by as much as 600 percent. The meaty discussion about it though focuses more on the disparity of stop-and-frisks conducted between whites and brown-colored people. The huge disparity is being criticized by many as an act to ostracize minorities with the use of separate and unequal police treatment.  Many consider the program a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.

Though the program’s sole purpose is to curb gun violence, it has evolved into something like a dog running about without a leash. NYPD police officers go around the city racially profiling young males in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods.

At present the program is put into question and is being argued upon in a federal court. The New York Civil Liberties Union supports the case against the NYPD. The group wants to stop the Trespass Affidavit Program or TAP. The said program allows police officers to stop and question people who are either inside or outside their private property. The plaintiffs argue that the police force “has a widespread practice of making unlawful stops on suspicion of trespass.”

Jaenean Ligon, the lead plaintiff in the case, said that she is against the program because the unjust practice has happened even to her son. She narrated that her 17-year-old son was stopped for no apparent reason while the latter was going out of their apartment building to buy a bottle of ketchup at a nearby store.

This week, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin issued an injunction barring NYPD police officers from conducting stop-and-frisks outside of buildings stated in the TAP. The facts of the case show that police officers on patrol duty never differentiated between potentially dangerous persons to any regular residents. Blacks and Latinos were regularly stopped mainly because they were black or brown.

Other plaintiffs include Charles Bradley, a 51-year-old security guard, who was detained while he visiting his fiancée in the Bronx. Bradley recalled that he was abruptly stopped, frisked, brought to the police station, strip-searched and fingerprinted. While all of these were happening, he was peppered with questions regarding his suspected involvement with guns and drugs.

Another complainant is Abdullah Turner, 24. He said he was also arrested mainly because he was standing outside of his friend’s apartment building in the Bronx. Police officers believed he was about to trespass. In his defense, he questioned the possibility of a trespass when he was outside of the apartment building.

In her injunction order, Scheindlin writes, “While it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the NYPD has systematically crossed it.”

The New York Post seemed to be a staunch supporter of stop-and-frisks with their recent scathing editorial challenging the ruling with the question, “How much blood will federal Judge Shira Scheindlin have on her hands when she finishes dismantling the most effective anti-gun-violence program in urban America?”

However, the editorial seemed to ignore a report published by NYCLU. The report revealed that more young African-American men were subjected to stop-and-frisks in comparison to the total number of blacks in the entire city. In response, civil rights groups called for a quick dismantling of the program. However, the demands had fallen on deaf ears as Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly firmly defended the program as an effective measure against gun violence.

Statistics, however, discredits Bloomberg’s and Kelly’s beliefs.

In 2011, only one in ten stops was reported to be related with some “violent criminal activity.” In addition, minorities who made up the 87 percent of all stop-and-frisks in the same year had a weapon for only 1.8 percent of the time.

In reality, whites who were seldom stopped were twice more likely to have a fatal weapon in their possession. 98% of all young African-American and Hispanic youths who were stopped didn’t carry any weapon. And still, the mayor and police commissioner insist that the proliferation of guns is the sole reason why the program must remain.

Commissioner Kelly spoke proudly of the program saying that the program has cause the decline of murder in the city. However when matched with statistics, there seems to be no correlation. During his first year in office in 2002, there were 96,296 stops and the city had recorded 587 homicides. In 2011, the stops rose dramatically to 685,724 stops yet the number of homicides were still at the 500 mark, 532 to be specific. “There is no evidence that stop and frisk is lowering or suppressing the murder rate in New York City,” read a statement issued by the NYCLU.

New York Gov. Mario Cuomo also agrees with the criticism against stop-and-frisks. In addition, he also questions the current marijuana-possession laws. He wants reform in both programs. The racially disparate criminalization of minority youths he said is “…not fair, it’s not right. It must end, and it must end now.”

The injunction ordered by Scheindlin is a good start for many of the critics. Apart from the TAP case, three other similar cases are pending in her court. However, the story is still unfinished. The conclusion with regards to the stop-and-frisks is still vague. One thing is certain, the critics and concerned citizens would continue to be vigilant eagerly waiting for justice to be served.