Stop-and-frisk: Witness felt ‘humiliated,’ hopes for change

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This is part two of theGrio series on New York City’s decade-long stop-and-frisk practice, which has prompted an ongoing class action lawsuit. Click here for part one of the series.

Plaintiffs have taken the witness stand and recounted incidents of being stopped and frisked during the ongoing class action lawsuit, Floyd v. City of New York, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The practice allows police officers to stop and question individuals based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. It also grants officers the right to conduct a search if they suspect that an individual may be carrying a weapon or drugs.

The CCR argues that these searches often go beyond what is permitted. They also say that the stop-and-frisk practice violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections against racially-discriminatory policing.

They say the current practice uses discriminatory targeting and harassment by stopping African-American and Latinos without regard to whether such reasonable suspicion exists or not.

The city’s take on stop-and-frisks

However, city officials say they don’t allow racial profiling and assert that officers don’t stop people without reasonable suspicion. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former NYPD Chief Joseph Esposito are among the city’s most vocal supporters of stop-and-frisks. They  both defend the practice, saying it is effective in deterring crime.

Esposito testified that although the number of stops has increased by almost 700 percent over the years, the number of crimes has dropped by forty percent.

According to The New York Times, Mayor Bloomberg says that stop-and-frisks are “clearly a life-saving practice.”

Thirty-year-old Frantz Jerome disagrees. He told theGrio about his own experiences being stopped and frisked and how he hopes for change in the practice.

Jerome, co-founder of The Peace Poets – an organization set to educate the NY community through art — says he has been stopped over 20 times and frisked close to 10.

A personal stop-and-frisk experience 

In December of 2010, upwards of 11 o’clock at night, Jerome says he walked out of an apartment building located in, what he says, was a majority black and Latino neighborhood in the Bronx.

“I was leaving the headquarters of the Peace Poets when a white van pulled up on the sidewalk and almost hit me. Then two uniformed officers got out and walked towards me.”

Jerome says he was interrogated by the police and asked questions on which building he had just exited, where he was going and if he had any weapons on him.

“They asked me what I did for a living and they made fun on what I was wearing. They asked me why I was dressed like a weirdo and asked me to take off my jacket and hand over my book bag.”

From there, Jerome says he was asked to put his hands on the wall and was immediately frisked.

“They checked in my hair, put their hands in my pockets and patted me down,” he says. “I also noticed that they wrote ‘suspicious clothing’ on their notepad.”

Jerome says they then took his ID, checked it and returned it minutes later. At that time, he was allowed to go on his way.

“I was angry, to be stopped in a community where I had once felt comfortable in and have people see me,” Jerome says of the incident. “It felt like a violation of my civil rights. I felt humiliated.”