On August 12, 2013, a U.S. District Judge ruled that NYC’s “stop-and-frisk” policy was unconstitutional due to its disproportionate targeting of racially defined groups. The police department’s ability to stop, question, and frisk anyone behaving in a reasonably suspicious manner was ruled constitutional in 1968. However, the NYPD has come under harsh scrutiny because of the sheer number of minorities who have been stopped and frisked. In her ruling, Judge Scheindlin stated, “No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life.” In response, NYC Mayor Bloomberg said, “People also have the right to walk down the street without being killed or mugged.”
Proponents of NYC’s stop-and-frisk program declare that the policy has led to a reduction in the murder rate and overall crime, increases safety, and helps keep guns off the street. Mayor Bloomberg has openly stated that minorities commit more crime and are more likely to be the victims of crime, thereby justifying the NYPD’s focus on the city’s minorities.
Opponents, such as the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), object to those findings as justifications used to target minorities. According to the NYCLU, there is no proven crime data supporting the correlation between the stop-and-frisk policy and public safety. Namely, “while violent crimes fell 29 percent in NYC from 2001 to 2010, other large cities experienced larger violent crime declines without relying on stop and frisk abuses: 59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas, and 37 percent in Baltimore.” The NYCLU also points out that NYC’s stop-and-frisk policy does not reduce the number of guns on the street since guns have been found in less than 0.2 percent of stops involving minorities. Even a report by the New York City Public Advocate’s office stated that in 2012, the NYPD found a weapon in one out of every 49 stops of whites, but only in one in every 71 stops of Latinos and one in every 93 stops of African-Americans.
The District Court’s ruling has led to mixed emotions. While some feel that the ruling was correct, many also understand the need for order and protection in inner city neighborhoods. Winchester Key, president and CEO of the East NY Urban Youth Corps., a housing and youth education advocacy group, acknowledges that most of the young people stopped by the police fit the demographic most likely to shoot or be shot in communities like East NY, a NYC neighborhood with a historically high murder rate. As Key stated, “I got mixed feelings about this. We have black-on-black crime, it’s happening and we know it. We know we are killing each other and there may be a need for stop-and-frisk. But not to the level that we’ve seen, where the police are going around and jacking up every young black man with a hat on or his pants falling off. They can’t just violate their rights. It’s gone too far.”
By Being Latino Contributor, Lissette Díaz. Lissette Díaz is a Cuban-American writer and attorney living and practicing law in New Jersey. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.