Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
New York Cops Stop Record Numbers of Blacks and Latinos – for Nothing

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

If you're Black and walking the streets of New York City, be careful not to make any "furtive" moves, and make sure not to wear clothing that is "inappropriate for the season" or clothes "commonly used in a crime." The cops consider such behavior "reasonable suspicion" to stop and frisk pedestrians, 90 percent of whom happen to be non-white. This year, the police are on their way to stopping 628,000 persons - joining the two million that have been stopped and frisked since 2004.

New York Cops Stop Record Numbers of Blacks and Latinos – for Nothing

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Making a ‘furtive’ move or wearing a jacket the cops think is out of season is good reason to stop a person on the streets of New York.”

Even as civil libertarians push their suit to halt arbitrary stop-and-frisks, New York City cops are on the way to breaking all records for sweeping Blacks and Latinos from the streets. According to the police department’s own data, at the pace they are going, cops will have stopped, questioned and frisked almost 628,000 persons by the end of the year – more than the whole population of Boston. Last year, stop-and-frisks numbered 531,000 – more than the population of Atlanta. In the years 2004 through 2008, the NYPD stopped almost two million people on the streets. This may be the largest and longest sustained dragnet in urban history, including under conditions of martial law.

Despite all that police activity – and the seething anger it generates in targeted neighborhoods – only one out of ten stops results in an arrest or even a summons. But it’s not as if the police aren’t trying to arrest as many non-whites as possible. Blacks consistently number around half of those stopped by police – although making up only about a quarter of the population. Whites hover around 10 percent of those stopped on the street, while comprising 45 percent of all New Yorkers.

About one hundred thousand more people are stopped and frisked than are arrested the old fashioned way, based on probable cause. The street stops are supposedly based on the lower standard of “reasonable suspicion” – but it’s a reasoning only understandable to police and racists. In order to make the practice appear reasonable, the cops give out cards that explain the kind of behavior that supposedly leads to a stop-and-frisk. It includes:

carrying what appears to be a weapon”;

creating “sights or sounds suggestive of criminal activity” such as ringing an alarm, or running from a crime scene;

making “furtive movements”; and

wearing clothes “inappropriate for the season” or clothes “commonly used in a crime”

In the years 2004 through 2008, the NYPD stopped almost two million people on the streets.”

So, making a “furtive” move or wearing a jacket the cops think is out of season is good reason to stop a person on the streets of New York. In fact, any excuse will do, if you’re Black.

It is this type of institutionalized police behavior that leads inevitably to mass Black incarceration. The process begins with hyper-surveillance of Blacks and browns. Arbitrary stops lead to arbitrary arrests of the unlucky ten percent; to arbitrarily severe charges, followed by higher Black conviction rates and longer sentences under harsher circumstances. The end result is total community devastation. But it all starts with the cops on the block.

Crime has been way down in New York for a very long time. But that doesn’t matter to the police, who justify their racially selective behavior no matter what the crime rate is. If crime is up, that means more stops are needed. If crime is down, the cops say that’s because of the street stops. The only consistent factor is race – the defining element of American life.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.



Direct download: 20090520_gf_nypd.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:24am EDT