The national president of the NAACP took to a Brooklyn pulpit Sunday to condemn the city’s “Stop and Frisk” policy and recent comments made in support of it by New York City’s mayor.
President Benjamin Todd Jealous chose Nazarene Congregational UCC (United Church of Christ) in Bedford-Stuyvesant as the site for a fiery speech, charging New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with using scare tactics to justify his use of the controversial policy. Before a modest congregation, Jealous laid out a case against the practice of questioning and searching anyone deemed suspicious.
“Mayor Bloomberg said last week in his State of the City speech that Stop and Frisk makes us safer,” said Jealous. “He asked if any one of us is wiling to risk our life by stopping Stop and Frisk. Really, one of the most powerful people in the country and you have to stoop that low to scare people?”
In his last ever State of the City speech Thursday, Bloomberg staunchly defended Stop and Frisk searches, saying, “We have a responsibility to conduct them, and as long as I am mayor, we will not shirk from that responsibility,” adding, “I understand that innocent people don’t like to be stopped, but innocent people don’t like to be shot and killed, either.”
But according to research conducted by the New York Civil Liberties Union and other groups, there’s no statistical evidence to support the effectiveness of the program. In fact, while violent crimes fell 29 percent in New York City between 2001 and 2010, other large cities had larger drops without relying on Stop and Frisk programs. According to the NYCLU, violent crimes fell by 59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans and 49 percent in Dallas. According to Jealous, these numbers show that the New York City Police Department’s manpower is being misallocated.
“Law enforcement is like anything else. When you choose to do one thing, you’re choosing not to do something else,” warned Jealous. “When police officers choose to make us suspects because of our color, they’re choosing not to make somebody else a suspect because of their behavior.”
Aside from charges of ineffectiveness, critics of Stop and Frisk point to the racial profiling evident in its results. From 2002 to 2011, black and Latino residents made up nearly 90 percent of people stopped, according to the NYCLU. Even in predominantly white neighborhoods, these groups were disproportionately effected. In Park Slope, for example, blacks and Latinos made up about 24 percent of the population during this period, but constituted 79 percent of stops. Overall, only 12 percent of stops result in arrests.
David Harper is a part of Nazarene’s music ministry. Not a quiet choirboy, he drums for the church every Sunday — and has had his fair share of run-ins with the NYPD.
“I’ve never been stopped and frisked,” Harper said. “But a few of my friends have.” The 22-year-old has been subject to other harassment however, such as being ticketed by officers while sitting with friends in a neighborhood park. Tactics such as this and Stop and Frisk create a rift between police and the African-American community, Harper believes.
“It doesn’t make you feel safe or protected,” the church musician added. “You feel like you can’t really go to the police, like they’re not there for you.”
Mayor Bloomberg has nearly a year left in office. Opponents of Stop and Frisk are hopeful that a new administration could result in an end to a program that causes humiliation for many citizens.
“It is time for a change,” said Jealous. “And the mayor should have just let good enough be enough instead of going out trying to defend a policy that cannot be defended. It’s shameful.”
Follow Donovan X. Ramsey on Twitter at @idxr