NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Program

This week we watched the video on NYPD’s Stop and Frisk program in action. At first,  it may seem like it could be a good program to adopt for other cities, but if we do some basic research it will become very clear that this program is basically a  form of racism. Stop and Frisk program raise serious concern over racial profiling, illegal search and seizure, and privacy violation of an individual. Research shows that this program tend to target mainly minority groups such as Latin Americans, African Americans…etc. According to statistics, about 684,000 people were stopped in 2011. Unfortunately, over 80% of those stopped have been completely innocent(NYPD stats). In the video itself, the officers literally stopped the guy for looking suspicious. I would really like to know what is considered suspicious in their terms. If, for example, I have a backpack and I keep on looking over my shoulder to check who is behind me, I would probably look “suspicious” to NYPD officers. In fact, I do exactly that because I live in not so safe area and it is a habit of mine to check my back.

There have been numerous protests against this specific program. Strangely enough, police have defended racially disparate patterns of stops on the grounds that minorities commit disproportionately more crimes than whites (especially the types of crime that capture the attention of police), and that the spatial concentration and disparate impacts of crimes committed by minorities justifies more aggressive enforcement in minority communities(MacDonald, 2011).

Critical race theory is a perfect “tool” for analyzing NYPD’s Stop and Frisk program. Critical race theory is about race and confronting racism which seem to be deeply ingrained in every aspect of American society ( Pavlich, 2011). According to the UCLA School of Public Affairs: “ Critical race theory recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric of the American society. The power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color”.

The video was about NYPD, but I feel like VPD has a similar system. As I have mentioned in class, the sergeant told the officers to target specific group of people and issue as many tickets as possible. The officer who took me for the ride along said that he better do what the sergeant says in order to prove that he can do the job. I’m pretty sure that Canada is not as bad as America in terms of systemic racism, but its still there lurking somewhere close.

Reference list:

MacDonald, H. (2011). The myth of racial profiling. City Journal 11, 2-5.

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and Society Redefined. Ontario, Canada: Oxford University Press

Stop and Frisk Campaign: About the Issue. New York Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 29 March 2012.

What Is Critical Race Theory?. UCLA School of Public Affairs. Retrieved 11 March 2012.

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1 Comment

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One response to “NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Program

  1. Good post.

    You write “if we do some basic research it will become very clear that this program is basically a  form of racism. ”

    I wonder – do you think it is more accurate to say that the program *is* a form of racism, or that the program *provides a mechanism for the expression of institutionalized racism*?

    Regarding suspicion, if this is a topic of interest to you, let me know – I co-authored a book chapter on this some years ago, based on a study of ‘participatory surveillance’ campaigns related to national security. I would be happy to give you a copy of the chapter.

    Regarding your observations of VPD policing practices, I think that the literature on police occupational culture and the ‘dynamics of the encounter’ is particularly helpful in making sense of this. Police tend to create ‘typifications’ – generalized models – to guide their actions during encounters. Sometimes these typifications reflect undesirable aspects of police culture, including radicalized generalizations. The challenge is to figure out how to change this, given that it arises, in part, from the everyday working culture of patrol officers.