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Stop and Frisk Laws Should Have Never Started

by Todd A. Smith

Stop Frisking

            Some supporters of the stop and frisk law equate it to the field of advertising.  If you know mostly older, upper-class White men watch golf, then you advertise products that fit their needs during golf tournaments.  Likewise, if you know most crimes are committed by people of color, then you go to minority neighborhoods and stop and frisk anybody you see.

            According to the New York Times, “A federal judge ruled on (August 12) that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of minorities in the city, repudiating a major element in the Bloomberg administration’s crime-fighting legacy.”

            Although I applaud Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York for making strides at reducing crime, especially in the inner city, doing so with the stop and frisk law will only lead to a temporary fix and more racial acrimony in America’s largest metropolis.

            Crime is a serious problem in many minority communities.  From apathetic police officers and elected officials to residents too scared to speak out against violent criminals, our minority communities have become unlivable in many instances.

            Seeing more police in minority neighborhoods is a welcome sight if real crimes are truly investigated and innocent residents aren’t racially profiled by police officers who can mask their racism behind stop and frisk laws.

            Unfortunately, many African Americans have their own horror stories with police officers.  I was stopped in 1992 by an officer named B.P. Evans who asked me about some home burglaries on the same street my parents had been living on since 1976.

            Then there was the time in 1999, when I was stopped along Interstate 10 in Lake Charles, La. for not driving six car lengths behind the vehicle directly in front of me.

            Although many Black men are taught how to handle that situation in a calm manner in order to reduce the chance of violent conflict, the time harassing me and other innocent Black men like me could have been spent truly investigating violent crimes, which are often ignored in many minority communities.

            In both of those instances, all the officers accomplished were adding to my distrust of law enforcement.  It did nothing to reduce crime and did absolutely nothing to refute my belief that as a Black man in America we are still viewed as a threat and a problem.

            According to the New York Times, “Judge (Shira A.) Scheindlin concluded that the stops, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, as well as the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.”

            Although Bloomberg adamantly responded that there would be no overnight change in the stop and frisk law (New York City Council voted Thursday to override Bloomberg’s veto of two measures aimed at curtailing the policy), maybe he should reconsider the methods he is using and what type of consequences can result.

            In communities where many citizens already feel neglected and forgotten about, racially profiling them with stop and frisk laws may scare some temporarily into not committing a crime, but for those who are not living a criminal lifestyle, the anger that one feels can lead to more harm than good.

            Instead of implementing stop and frisk laws, why not implement a task force to clean up neglected neighborhoods and schools. 

            Instead of building more prisons, why not renovate dilapidated school buildings and equip them with the latest technologies.

            Instead of more of a police presence, why not increase the presence of job opportunities in those neighborhoods so the children can see there is another way of life outside of a life of crime.

            Although the mayor’s heart may be in the right place, he has to show the children in the inner city, that elected officials and the people of the city see them as an asset to the city and not a threat to the city’s safety.

This article was published on Friday 23 August, 2013.
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