Is This the End of Stop and Frisk?

The ruling in favor of NYC residents who say their rights are violated by the police practice is a start.

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The NYCLU published a report last year showing that more young African-American men had been subjected to stop and frisk than there were black males living in the entire city. Civil rights activists immediately called for a dismantling of the program, but Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly fiercely defended the practice, claiming that it was central to fighting gun violence in dangerous neighborhoods.

In 2011, only 10 percent of stops recorded were for "violent criminal activity." Furthermore, though African-American and Hispanic males made up 87 percent of all stop and frisks in the same year, only 1.8 percent of those frisks resulted in a weapon being found.

In fact, the small number of whites stopped were twice as likely to be carrying a concealed weapon. Essentially, in more than 98 percent of all stop and frisks of minority youths, no weapon was found -- and yet "guns" remain the justification for the practice.

Commissioner Kelly has tried to claim that the vast expansion of stop and frisks was responsible for the decline in New York City murder rates. There is, in fact, no such correlation. In 2002, when Kelly took office, 96,296 people were stopped and 587 homicides were reported. In 2011, the NYPD conducted 685,724 stops, and 532 homicides were reported. "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.

And New York Gov. Mario Cuomo agrees. In his State of the State address this week, he called for the Legislature to reform the marijuana-possession laws, which -- in conjunction with stop and frisk -- have been used in a racially disparate way to criminalize minority youths. "It's not fair, it's not right. It must end, and it must end now," Cuomo said.

From the apartment buildings of the Bronx to the street corners of Harlem, Brooklyn and beyond -- black and Hispanic boys tell an eerily similar story.

Zeandre Orr, a 14-year-old black teen from Brownsville in Brooklyn, told WNYC -- New York's NPR affiliate -- that he was stopped and frisked last year while on his way to McDonald's. And according to analysis conducted by WNYC, one in five of all stops conducted in 2011 were of teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. When the relationship between police and young brown boys is established so early on, it breeds distrust and encourages apathy and discontent.

But Scheindlin's ruling may be the beginning of the end of stop and frisk. The TAP case precedes three other challenges currently pending in her court.

This could be the dawning of a new day in which young black boys can walk to a store for ketchup, Skittles and iced tea, or McDonald's and return safely home -- unencumbered by the suspicion of others or the harassment and violence that have become all too common.

Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.