For months, civil rights activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton, concerned citizens and those simply tired of being stopped by police for what they believe is no reason other than their skin color have been calling the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy “the new racial profiling” and protesting its use.
The public outcry against the program — under which 80 percent of those stopped by police and frisked for weapons have been black or Latino, and 90 percent found to have done nothing wrong — seems finally to have begun to have an impact. Three court rulings have questioned the NYPD’s use of the tactic; San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has announced that he’ll abandon his plans to implement it in his city; and now the New York Times reports that the number of times that police officers stop, question and frisk people on Ney York City streets has dropped by more than 34 percent in recent months.
One source told the Times that officers who were not pursuing as many stops were thinking to themselves, “I don’t want to be on the receiving end of any kind of allegation.” We’d say that the question of whether a stop would raise red flags about racial profiling is a pretty reasonable thing to contemplate before deeming a person suspicious and searching him or her.
Is this progress?
The number of times police officers stopped, questioned and frisked people on the streets of New York City has dropped significantly, by more than 34 percent, in recent months, and a key contributing factor appears to be that police commanders have grown wary of pushing for such stops at daily roll calls, police supervisors said.
At the same time, a general feeling of unease about the tactic by officers on the street — who have seen widespread criticism of so-called stop-and-frisks in the news media and by the courts — has also contributed to the drop, some say, with officers simply choosing not to question people they might have stopped before.
The decline suggests that officers are unsure whether the political support remains for street stops, long a focal point of Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly’s crime-fighting strategy. In recent months, three court rulings have raised questions about the New York Police Department’s use of the tactic, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly have put in place new measures aimed at ensuring lawful stops.
“Cops are nervous, and supervisors are nervous” about the stop-and-frisk practice, said a police supervisor, explaining the drop. The supervisor, like other officers interviewed, spoke on the condition that he not be named for fear of angering his bosses.
Read more at the New York Times.