The Department of Justice has agreed to review New York City’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy following a meeting in Washington yesterday with New York City lawmakers and advocates.
The policy—in which police stop anyone who looks suspicious to them, search them, and arrest them for any illegal contraband discovered, especially small amounts of marijuana—in reality amounts to city-sanctioned racial profiling and harassment. Fully 87% of the almost 700,000 people stopped and frisked on the streets of New York last year were black or latino. And as the Guardian points out, while the number of stops has spiked 600% under Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, according to Newser the number of New Yorkers injured by gunfire “hasn’t budged since he took office.”
The NYPD perpetrates a fair number of illegal maneuvers against New Yorkers, from assaulting non-violent protesters with pepper spray regularly last fall to planting cocaine on innocent people in bars so officers can bust them to make their arrest quotas. But these crimes impact a relatively small number of popele. Stop and frisk, however, disrupts the lives of almost a million people a year—about 10% of the entire city. It’s incredible that it took a number this big to bring federal attention to what is clearly a widespread abuse of civil liberties, but better late than never.
The Guardian quotes City Council member Jumaane Williams, who says, “It’s clear that the mayor and commissioner – in the face of everything that points to this policy being unjust, unfair, racist, prejudiced and most importantly ineffective – won’t do anything about it.”
At this point the Department of Justice has only agreed to a review—no word yet on whether they will launch a formal investigation or hold the city accountable for illegal arrests.
Confronted recently with the fact that Stop and Frisk hasn’t reduced the number of gunfire injuries in the city, Bloomberg said simply, “I know.”