At a rate of every minute every day, the New York Police Department stops a person, questions them, asks for identification, and frisks them, sometimes at gunpoint, sometimes slapped against a wall. The number one reason for the stop, according to NYPD statistics, is that the person made a “furtive” look. The number two reason is “other.” Most of the time that person is black or Latino and most of the time they are living in the city’s poorest communities.
A very small percentage of these “stop and frisks” result in arrest or the seizure of any kind of contraband. Since 2002, the number of stop and frisks has increased from 149.000 to approaching 700.000 in 2011. “Stop and Frisk,” hailed as a crime fighting tool, has reached such enormous proportions, that the NYPD now stops 100 people an hour for nothing more than a “furtive” look. The stops can lead to frivolous summonses and jail time, making “Stop and Frisk” a touchstone issue in the broader debate over police power and racial profiling. Opponents see it as an example of the New Jim Crow and are organizing cop watches and civil disobedience actions to abolish the practice.
The US Justice department is poised to investigate the NYPD stop and frisk policy. Read more about “Stop and Frisk” on Nina Berman’s blog and see the Stop and Frisk slideshow on this website.