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GRISON: The Error With the 'Stop & Frisk' Era

Deborah D. Grison | 8/19/2013, 9:43 p.m.
Deborah D. Grison

In New York City between 2004 and 2012, 4 million New Yorkers were stopped by the NYPD; 84 percent of those stopped were of Black and Latino origin. This is commonly known as "stop & frisk," or "stop, ask & frisk." As far as the "John Q" public is concerned and can remember, this practice and term is rooted in "racial profiling." Racial profiling disproportionately targets people of color for investigation and enforcement, alienating communities from law enforcement, hindering community policing efforts, and causing law enforcement to lose credibility and trust among the people they are sworn to protect and serve. We rely on the police to protect us from harm and to promote fairness and justice in our communities. The despicable practice of racial profiling, however, has led countless people to live in fear and created a system of law enforcement that casts entire communities as suspect.

This abuse of authority presents a great danger to the fundamental principles of our Constitution. Recently U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin said "stop & frisk" is unconstitutional because it intentionally discriminates based on race. She has in turn coined a new phrase, "indirect racial profiling." Regardless of the used phraseology, this unlawful policing is nefarious. In addition to using body cameras, she named an independent monitor to develop reforms of the "stop & frisk" policy and provide the police department with training and supervision.

For immediate review, the Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) is an amendment to the United States Constitution and part of the Bill of Rights. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. Not that it matters, but people tend to overlook the entire amendment and or to understand it completely. Much like our "Miranda Rights," we only know the first few lines, nor do we understand its full contextual meaning. As citizens of this country we ALL expect to be treated as "free" and be able to walk (even while Black or Brown) as such and not be harassed by gun-toting, quota seeking, officer "unfriendly" on a power trip. The numbers spouted off about the crime rates dropping in New York City because of "stop & fisk" are not impressive because these are padded and cloaked in lawless behavior, wrapped in an attitude and spirit of racism that has been designed by egregious misuses and abuses of authority. When this becomes the allowed norm in our cities and community it creates an unconscionable fear in the community itself; thus perpetuating a lack of regard giving way to the disrespect of/for anyone in uniform. Fear, anger and resistance are the inevitable results, ending in revolt. Out of fear there can and will never be respect or a positive response from those who are being criminalized and victimized.

Even with this recent federal ruling, the detailed defense and offense offered by those in police authority in New York and other cities across the country, something is BROKEN here. Not only with this policy, but unfortunately, it is embodied with both trickle up and down transgressions that exist intrinsically throughout the entire criminal justice system. Therefore, the design of such villainy is in and of itself indictable; as are those who sustain and advocate its current state of iniquity. This is daily apparent on our streets and in our communities. However, this is not a new practice. As evident in the Rodney King L.A. police beating of 1991, the Central Park Five case of 1989 out of New York City and it's still yet unsettled civil lawsuit with the five Black and Latino men who served time for a crime they did not commit and have since been exonerated. These along with the "stand your ground law" and other local, state and federal ordinances and laws are blatant traps set to harm, incarcerate and even kill those who have black or brown skin. As seen with the following police and unlawful killings of Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Ramarley Gramham, Sholiver Dosher, Kimani Gray, Sean Bell, Malcolm Davis, Trayvon Martin and so many others.

There is an obvious anarchistic, heterodox encapsulated by a misappropriation of sanctioned misconduct that is creating warlike mentalities within today's community. This while those who are there to "Serve and Protect" are clearly trained, commanded, mandated even expected to "Abuse and Destroy!" This falls right in line with what Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness," notes as she reviews a system of racial and social control, leading to a new millennium and 21st Century racial and social underclass. This system of racism cannot be dismantled merely by or with piecemeal reform or court decisions. An overhaul of a corrupt INjustice system is required far more than ever before, as no task is more urgent for racial justice advocates than ensuring that America's current racial caste system is its very last.