Since 2002 the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has instituted the Stop and Frisk policy claiming that it is responsible for making the city and neighborhoods safer and getting more guns off of the streets. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly claims, “There’s no denying that stops take guns off the street and save lives.” Yet, guns are found in less than 0.2 percent of stops. Further, even though stop-and-frisk has increased more than 600 percent under New York City (NYC) Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly; it has not reduced the number of people who fall victim to shootings. In 2002, there were 1,892 victims of gunfire and 97,296 stops. In 2011, there were still 1,821 victims of gunfire but a record 685,724 stops. Most people who have experienced stop and frisk don’t believe it’s a deterrent to carrying a gun. Yazhid, a native New Yorker, says, “I don’t think it deters people from carrying weapons; it more or less does makes people do things to try and conceal them even better. So it’s not really helping the situation, it just exacerbates the situation.”
The data itself shows a different story from the one the mayor and police commissioner claim as does the experiences of the majority of people being stopped. In 2011, 685,724 stops were made of which 605,328 of the people stopped were totally innocent (88%). Further, 350,743 were black (53%), 223,740 were Latino (34%), and 61,805 were white (9%). Additionally, 51% were aged 14 to 24.
These stories continue as well as the thread of how such experiences make people distrust the police, creating tension between them and the communities they are there to serve. Brian of Brooklyn describes that after being stopped, “You feel angry. I always feel angry. My whole day is thrown off. Their tactics make me upset. This is what you have to stoop to? To run down on me? To search me to get a collar? I definitely think their tactics are the worst.” Numerous organizations are currently working in NYC, in all five boroughs, to change the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy. Currently, a class action suit has been filed against the police department citing that the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy subjects millions of city dwellers to racially biased illegal searches.
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