Why We’re Marching Against Stop and Frisk

Your Take: The NAACP's president explains plans for a silent protest of a racially skewed police practice.

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Stop-and-frisk policing is, in fact, counterproductive. A healthy police force should be modeled on the image of a police officer walking the beat and interacting with neighbors. But in many New York City neighborhoods, residents live in fear of officers. Between those who get stopped, those who know someone who got stopped and those who read about racial disparities in the newspaper, the program erodes trust in police officers and destroys the valuable relationships between officers and the communities they serve.

Other large cities are effectively cutting crime without resorting to stop and frisk. The violent-crime rate fell 29 percent in New York City from 2001 to 2010, but it also fell 59 percent in Los Angeles over the same time period, 56 percent in New Orleans and 49 percent in Dallas. In these cities, community policing and data-driven methods have proved effective in rooting out crime.

This Father’s Day, the NAACP and other civil rights activists, civil liberty advocates and community members will march silently down the streets of New York City to protest stop-and-frisk policing. The tradition of silent marches for civil rights dates back to 1917, when W.E.B. Du Bois and the 8-year-old NAACP marched through New York City to protest lynchings, segregation and race riots in the South.

Silence is a powerful force that, like other forms of nonviolent protest, holds a mirror to the brutality of one’s opponents. On June 17 we will hold up a mirror to New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy. For more information about the event, visit silentmarchnyc.org.

The NYPD is stopping New Yorkers at higher levels than at any time in the city’s history. As the number of stops continues to grow, it will seem more and more as if the NYPD has set up a checkpoint on every corner. That would be an unwelcome development for the nation’s most diverse city.

Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP.

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