Tag Archives: NYPD

NYPD Stop & Frisk; Protected Ideology of the Elites

The Critical legal studies theory was an ideological movement stemming from the late 60’s movement of civil rights and anti-establishment (Pavlich, 2011, p.117). It viewed law as a political ideology which sustained itself by supporting interests of the group or class that created it. The legal system maintained the status quo which in turn depicted the enshrined hierarchy power relations and inequalities present in society. Law was virtually seen as a tool to oppress certain classes of people and maintain the elite in their positions within the social hierarchy. We can correlate such concepts to the NYPD stop and frisk program and witness such inequalities and social conflicts. A big component of classical critical legal studies rested on the concept of “alienation,” where certain individuals don’t have the ability of reach power and certain freedoms due to the powerful oppressing the less well off (Pavlich, 2011, p. 120). We can think of it as Caucasian supremacy, where interest of the elite are of more importance and the institutions and social structures that are in place embrace such power, which leads to social inequalities and racism. This applies to the stop and frisk program where minorities are the ones to be seemingly living under the economic alienation and thus are likely to be racially profiled. The program seems to come from the collection of beliefs and prejudices that embraces injustice with a mask of legitimacy. It is a tool to maintain the status quo and keep the powerful in their correct place within the social hierarchy.

The example with the sergeants who are in command depicted critical legal studies’ concept of how mainstream legal thought supports inequalities and racism. The commanders put pressure on their officers to do unreasonable things to meet quotas and even embraced a tone of violating rights. They normalized it. It stemmed from the top down (hierarchy). As a side effect, the pressure on officers lead to them to have no choice but to follow the status quo and lean towards oppressing certain classes of individuals and further the interest of the ruling class (privileged).

The only part of feminist jurisprudence and critical race theory that could correlate to the NYPD stop and frisk program is the agenda to have all people of gender, class and race equally valued (Pavlich, 2011, p. 125). The feminist agenda would be difficult to install within the NYPD program since the issues of class differences and race have developed overtime and established within the socio-capitalist societies. With pressure put on by an ideology (NYPD department), the police officers will develop their own perspective of who would looks suspicious depending on their own social upbringing as well. This in turn will most likely reflect mainstream society’s views and point the finger at those that are statistically likely to offend: minorities and the poor.

Consequently, although the law and the NYPD stop and frisk program is another tool masked to be proactive, it fails within itself as the ideology of the interest group that created it maintained the status quo of the elite. It separated trust and rapports from the citizens and police and lead to racial profiling. However, it does give us a view of how mainstream legal thought can depict social inequalities present within legal institutions and how certain established ideologies keep being protected.


Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.




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NYPD Stop-and-Frisk portrays racism

The NYPD stop-and-frisk program enables police officers to stop and search individuals who are out in public based on ‘suspicion’ without a warrant. These officers are supposed to meet a quota and a failure to do so can result in disciplinary action. The video “The Hunted and the Hated: An Inside Look at the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy” shows the New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stating that this program is a great program because the police are being proactive, and as a result the crime rate is decreasing. This program in the public’s eye appears legitimate however at the same time it creates tension surrounding the notion of race. This will be examined in this blog post by making reference to Critical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory.

The main focus of the critical legal studies as stated by Pavlich (2011) in Law & Society Redefined “… is to explore the manner in which legal doctrine and legal education and the practices of legal institutions work to support a pervasive system of oppressive in egalitarian relations”. We discussed this in class and the idea that the law appears legitimate, even though it may not be, arose. This relates to the stop and frisk program as the aim of it is to reduce crime. Most individuals in the public would believe that having more cops on the street reduces crimes and it would result in safer communities. However, as stated on the New York Civil Liberties Unions page “No research has ever proven the effectiveness of [the program], and the small number of arrests, summonses, and guns recovered demonstrates that the practice is ineffective” (http://www.nyclu.org/node/1598). This page goes on to state that while violent crime fell 29% in New York from 2001 to 2010, many other cities had declines in crime as well without programs like this and at greater percentages, such as 59% in Los Angeles. This program may appear to work in the favour of the community yet it doesn’t as it reinforces the beliefs that certain individuals commit crimes and therefore they need to be stopped, which goes towards the next point of critical race theory.

The idea behind critical race theory is that law is responsible for producing unequal race relations. Therefore, as a result the law reproduces the notion of race. Critical race theorists would suggest that this program definitely reproduces the notion of race. In the video one of NYPD Veterans states that he had a captain who said “we’re going to go out there and we’re going to violate some rights”. This shows that even before the stop begins the officer has in his mind that he is going to target certain individuals. This causes more tension between racialized minorities and the police because the minorities feel targeted. It also produces tension within the community as the minorities will feel that it is unfair that they are subject to the majority of these stops while Whites for example were not subject to as many. In the article “An Analysis of the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy in the Context of Claims of Racial Bias” Fagan et Al. (2006) note that “In total, Blacks and Hispanics represented 51% and 33% of the stops, respectively…” and more recently according to the video more than 87% were Black or Latino and 9/10 were innocent of any wrongdoing. As Matsuda (1993) notes one should not examine “racism as isolated instances of conscious bigoted decision making or prejudiced practice, but as larger, systemic, structural, and cultural, as deeply psychological and socially ingrained” (Pavlich, 2011). Through this process society has the belief that certain races commit more crimes, and as a result certain areas are targeted more. This is presented in the article by Fagan et al. (2006) as they state that “since ‘high crime areas’ often have high concentrations of minority citizens (Massey and Denton, 1993), this logic places minority neighborhoods at risk for elevating the suspiciousness of their residents”. I believe this is a crucial point to note as not only is an individual’s race of importance when an officer is thinking of stopping them but also the location they choose as well.

All of these factors mentioned above combined together lead to the communities increased perception that minorities commit the most crimes and therefore this program is good. However, I would question how effective these stops are and research has shown that they are not doing much and are rather more of a nuisance to specific minorities. However, one could state that they are making a difference as they eliminate some percentage, even though it is small, of crime that would otherwise go undetected. Personally, I feel that by having this program in place it is reinforcing the belief that minorities commit crime and this belief is held in the majority of the communities mind and as a result this makes individuals unknowingly have distorted opinions when it comes to who commits crimes. This cycle continues and minorities are targeted more and more, and when at a stop a minority is found to have something on them this reinforces the belief that it is the minorities who cause violence and the cycle repeats as it feeds into the public’s perception.


Fagan, J., Gelman, A., Kiss, A. (2006). An analysis of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy in the context of claims of racial bias. Columbia Law School.

New York Civil Liberties Union. Racial Justice: Stop-and-Frisk Data. http://www.nyclu.org/node/1598

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

Tutle, Ross. (2012). “The Hunted and the Hated: An Inside Look at the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7rWtDMPaRD8#!


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NYPD and ‘Racial Profiling’

The article by Sociological Images and the video about the NYPD’s ‘stop-and-frisk’ policy is about the program in which police officers are required to stop and search individuals in public without a warrant; only reasonable cause.  The main reason for this program is to appease the public opinion of the police and to prevent crime by taking proactive measures.  Generally this seems like a good program for the overall safety of the community but many people argue against it and the statistics show that the program does very little to prevent or catch criminal behaviour.  As shown in the article, the author reports that about 87-89% of stops lead to no evidence of wrong-doing (Sharp, 2012).  Moreover, the program is put under greater scrutiny when the statistics show that the overwhelming majority of individuals stopped are minority groups, i.e., African Americans and Latinos.  Adding to the issue is the report that the officers are required to fill quotas for the number of stops they make and are threatened with penalties for not filling enough ‘250’s’ as they call them.

Critical race theory can be used to explain this program by the NYPD.  Essentially this theory describes race relations and that racist motives, especially institutional racism, is behind society’s power structures in legal contexts.  “CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color” (UCLA School of Public Affairs, 2009, para. 2).  How this relates to the ‘stop-and-frisk’ program is that the underlying basis for the stops is based on the race of the individuals.  The majority of them are minorities that turn out to be innocent.  The source of racism in this theory is “systematic, structural…deeply psychological and socially ingrained” (Pavlich, 2011, p. 130).  As such, the commissioner and mayor of the NYPD and New York both promote this program saying it is necessary and effective.  Additionally, the systemic racism is evident from the Lieutenants and Sergeants that condone and force this practice to target minorities.

Furthermore, as Pavlich (2011) states, “law is never colour blind, neutral, or objective, and is key to struggles that generate, manipulate, and use various conceptions of race for difference political ends” (p. 130).  Critical race theorists would use this statement to show that the NYPD is using this program to gain public support by showing they are proactively trying to reduce crime and Michael Bloomberg is in support of this as well to maintain his position as mayor.  This is effective because the majority of the public views this program in a positive light and would like to see it continue.

In my opinion, I think this is a good program for police departments to keep positive public opinions because it is shown that a police presence makes the community feel like the police are doing their job effectively.  Regarding the issue of racial profiling, the more appropriate term would be ‘criminal profiling’.  If you take a realistic view of crime in New York and in many other American cities, minorities like African Americans and Latinos disproportionately make up a large amount crime in relation to their total population.  Studies have shown that the typical offender in a city like New York is a young minority male.  This recent report by the NYPD proves just that, where 34.9% of suspects arrested are Black, 37.7% are Hispanic, and 23.3% are White.  While I agree that some officers tend to take advantage of profiling by abusing their power or being pressured into doing so, as shown in the video, generally their main targets are individuals, regardless of race, that are known to commit more crime.  If this program was done in a city where statistics show that young White males commit the most crime then the police would primarily target young white males.

Here is another article about the ‘stop-and-frisk’ program that supports the idea that the police target stereotypical criminals for their city based on statistics and that there is no racial motive behind their work.  It states that:

Blacks committed 66 percent of all violent crimes in the first half of 2009 (though they were only 55 percent of all stops and only 23 percent of the city’s population). Blacks committed 80 percent of all shootings in the first half of 2009. Together, blacks and Hispanics committed 98 percent of all shootings. Blacks committed nearly 70 percent of all robberies. Whites, by contrast, committed 5 percent of all violent crimes in the first half of 2009, though they are 35 percent of the city’s population (and were 10 percent of all stops). They committed 1.8 percent of all shootings and less than 5 percent of all robberies. The face of violent crime in New York, in other words, like in every other large American city, is almost exclusively black and brown. Any given violent crime is 13 times more likely to be committed by a black than by a white perpetrator (MacDonald, 2010, para. 10).

To conclude, crime rates are what drive the tactics that police departments use to prevent crime.  It’s only logical for them to target those who are responsible for the majority of crimes committed.  Even though many of the minority individuals stopped are innocent, the police are only doing so for the greater good of their community.  However, I do disagree with how the NYPD carries out this program.  Their main problem is that there is no independent oversight committee to evaluate their programs and policies.  It is unethical to force officers to write ‘250’s’ for the sake of not getting punished which is what makes this program ineffective and corrupt.

MacDonald, H. (2010, May 14). Distorting the Truth About Crime and Race. City Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.city-journal.org/2010/eon0514hm.html.

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

Sharp, G. (2012, October 15). NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy. Retrieved from: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/10/15/nypds-stop-and-frisk-policy.

UCLA School of Public Affairs. (2009). What is Critical Race Theory? Retrieved from: https://spacrs.wordpress.com/what-is-critical-race-theory.

United States Department of Justice. (2012). Crime and Enforcement Activity in New York City. Retrieved from: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/analysis_and_planning/crime_and_enforcement_activity_jan_to_jun_2012.pdf.


Filed under Musing