The New York City Police Department's "stop and frisk" policy has been the subject of public debate in recent weeks. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has claimed that the practice — in which cops can detain, search and interrogate city residents as a crime-prevention measure – helps keep neighborhoods safe. Others argue that the tactic unfairly targets black and Latino youth populations. The Root has compiled comments from some notable public figures who have shared their views on the topic. Let us know where you stand on the issue by leaving comments below.
Bloomberg stood in front of an all-black congregation at the First Baptist Full Gospel Church of Brownsville in Brooklyn last weekend to defend his stance on stop-and-frisk tactics, which result in the large number of blacks and Latinos behind bars. "We are not going to walk away from a strategy that we know saves lives," he said. "At the same time, we owe it to New Yorkers to ensure that stops are properly conducted and carried out in a respectful way."
After Mayor Bloomberg's church speech, Sharpton responded with a Facebook statement: "The Mayor's speech … did not address the racial profiling and violation of civil rights and civil liberties of Blacks and Latinos, and in particular, of the youth in New York City … the Stop and Frisk policy robs people who are innocent of their rights as citizens and does not lead to a reduction in crime."
Kweli was one of the first entertainers to speak out against the policy and educated his followers about their rights in May via Twitter: "Stop & Frisk DOES NOT reduce crime! Stop Stop & Frisk! http://ccrjustice.org/stopandfrisk RT"
Kelly proposed a measure that he said would reduce the number of unlawful stops. In a three-page letter sent in May to City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, he suggested that the department implement "routine training sessions" for incoming officers. "I believe these measures will help us more closely monitor the daily street encounter activity of precinct personnel," he wrote in the letter.
Powell argues in an opinion piece for the Guardian that employment opportunities and other public programs will reduce the violent behavior that Mayor Bloomberg insists will be stopped with stop and frisk: "This is an American epidemic … Politicians who say stop and frisk has decreased crime are dead wrong … a rapport with these young men that looks first for the best in them, not the worst, is what will decrease anti-social behavior. That's what kept me from a life of crime."
West attended a stop-and-frisk protest in May and was arrested for disorderly conduct. But the trial did not dampen his fervor. "I hate terrorized, dramatized, stigmatized young sisters and brothers of this city, mostly black and brown," he said. "Morality is deeper than skin pigmentation — it's a matter of right and wrong." He added that he drove to the rally "in my 25-year-old black Cadillac with burgundy seats, listening to Luther Vandross."
In an effort to keep stop and frisks at bay, Cuomo is recommending legislation that decriminalizes marijuana possession, for which many Latinos and blacks are arrested every year. "This proposal will bring long-overdue consistency and fairness to New York State's penal law and save thousands of New Yorkers — particularly minority youth — from the unnecessary and life-altering trauma of a criminal arrest and, in some cases, prosecution," an administration official said via email.
The Democrat addressed the issue of race as it relates to stop and frisk but also said that the measure keeps weapons "off the street." He told NBC's Philadelphia affiliate that the tactic should be used only "in a constitutional fashion": "For those who complain about it … more than 80 percent of the homicide victims in Philadelphia are black … We have people getting killed, unfortunately, at a much too [high] rate with handguns, almost all of whom are African American and killed by other African Americans." He added that the focus should be on reducing crime. "I still believe that I also have a right not to be shot, and people should not be running around with illegal weapons."
Although Mayor Bloomberg stresses the police department's ban on racial profiling, the New York City congresswoman informed members of Congress about the abuses that many individuals fall victim to during stop and frisks. "In major urban areas across this nation, my colleagues are seeing similar types of police tactics," she said. "The hostility between communities of color and local law enforcement is growing with each passing day."
The NYPD has been under fire for previous controversial measures — such as spying on Muslim organizations — that were deemed racist, and stop-and-frisk measures are seen in the same light. Williams argues that such tactics are racist: "If you look at the numbers, no matter how you slice stop, question and frisk, it is a racist and prejudicial policy that violates civil rights and civil liberties."
O'Reilly agrees that stop and frisk is racist in practice but supports the measure nonetheless: "This is a racial story, not a drug story … The cops know who the wise guys are, who the dealers are, who the punks are, and they know who the muggers are," he said. "And they try to get these guys on anything. And they stop and they frisk and they find them and they send them into the system. That's what drives crime down."
Camara said that residents are tired of policies that target communities made up predominantly of people of color. "The numbers tell a tragic story," he said in a statement. "We cannot get away from the fact that there is implicit racial bias in this tactic used by the NYPD. Since city officials refuse to listen, we are taking our cause to Washington. It's time for some high-powered backup to advocate for the civil rights of New Yorkers."
Walcott talked about being stopped recently by officers near his home but said that he supports them for fulfilling their duty. "When I was stopped, I went through a variety of different thought processes," he said. "The police are doing their job to keep me and my family safe. What I didn't particularly care for were some of the types of discussions that took place between me and the police. And that was dealt with."