Racist policy, stop-and-frisk, does more harm than good

On September 22, 2013, actors Cherie Johnson and Dennis White were pulled over by a police officer, harassed, and searched on the side of a South Carolina road. Without cause, and without the legal justification, these two innocent, and highly successful African Americans were treated as second class citizens by a white cop. 

It’s no secret that the state of racial justice in America has been hurting as of late. Whether it’s the Trayvon Martin case, the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, or stop and frisk policies, today’s race relations are depressing. A policy instituted in many of America’s largest cities, stop and frisk allows cops to stop, question, and search any passersby without probable cause or a warrant. It’s unfortunate that this stopping and frisking, which is constitutionally questionable at best, has become an all too popular idea, backed up by crime drops and increased arrests. However, these drops don’t reveal the whole story and in fact leave out the negative consequences that come with them.

With the Mayoral race tightening in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner of NYPD Ray Kelly have been touting their support for this discriminatory policy and any candidates in favor. One of the main points of contention with stop and frisk is that there’s been a decrease in violent crime. Examining numbers from NYC from 2001-2010, there was indeed a decrease in violent crimes––a 29% percent decrease. Beyond the fact that no causation has been proven by any empirical study for this drop to be directly tied to stop and frisk, other major US metropolitan cities have actually seen more successful results without this hateful policy. Cities such as, Los Angeles saw a 59% decrease, New Orleans 56%, Dallas 49%, and in Baltimore 37%, all over the same time period but with the absence of stop and frisk policies. 

Not only do these facts prove that the stop and frisk policy in New York isn’t effective at reducing crime but they also point to a barrier created between the citizenry and the police intended to protect them. In mostly minority neighborhoods, many despise the police force and for good reason. How can one expect to have a positive relationship if there is not trust on both sides? This corrosive initiative creates heightened racial tensions, contributing to even more distrust amongst the police force, and likely increasing crime.

Perhaps even more shocking are the numbers explaining who is actually being stopped. Black and Latino New Yorkers made up about 24% of the population in 2011 but were the victims of racial profiling in 79% of all stops. Not to mention, that of those stopped, more than 3.8 million, or 88%, were innocent New Yorkers.

Cherie Johnson and Dennis White are unfortunately not alone in their experience of discrimination by the police force. Hundreds feel the pain of hate and discrimination on the streets of New York, and in cities and towns across the country. If we are ever to realize a more racially just society, we must dispel the systematic racism still found today and respect the constitutional rights of all of our citizens. Maybe then will all of our citizens be able to go for a stroll in our nation’s largest city.