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Fighting Police Abuse: A Community Action Manual Essay

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Stop and Frisk has been a very active public affair that had held serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops, and privacy rights. The police were stopping hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers yearly. Stop and Frisk is based on a standard of the power granted upon the standard of reasonable suspicion. A police officer has the power to stop, question, and frisk suspects given reasonable circumstances. It is a question of each individual case that determined whether it is necessary for reasonable detention or investigation.

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If an officer suspects that a person is armed and dangerous, a frisk may be conducted without a warrant. Under the stop and frisk law, officers can stop people walking down the streets and search them for weapons, drugs and other illegal pieces of stuff.

The stop and frisk were created to embrace the proactive and preventive theory of crime fighting. It was prioritized to conduct street surveillance of suspicious people and habitual offenders. Though the start of stops and frisk sounds protective and safe, it ended up as an aggressive policing, which was in a very heated situation for years. The vague suspicion, the search of an individual and the force used upon the target was incredible. Nearly most of the people stopped and frisked was innocent. “In 2002, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 97,296 times. 80,176 were totally innocent (82 percent)” (the NYCLU Campaign). Even without suspicion of wrongdoing, an officer approached someone and interrogate them based on their appearance. These searches were often unsuccessful in catching criminals, but few of them believed it was a success at crime control and stopped potential crime.

Race played an important role in how minorities were targeted by the stop and frisk policy. The law strictly targeted African American and Hispanics and other disempowered communities. For example in the article of NYCLU Campaign, it mentions, “Young black and Latino men were the targets of a hugely disproportionate number of stops. Though they account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 40.6 percent of stops in 2012. The number of stops of young black men neared the entire city population of young black men (133,119 as compared to 158,406). More than 90 percent of young black and Latino men stopped were innocent.” The stops indicated the innocent of a person and the color basis of a person. Walking around the city and being stopped by a police officer because of the skin tone resulted in racial discrimination. Majority of Latinos and African American were scared when they saw an officer because they used excessive force and targeted them as a criminal or an outsider. Stop ¬and frisk indicated that race was the primary factor in certain, whom the NYPD mostly stopped were Black and Latino neighborhoods and even in areas where populations were racially mixed or mostly White. Blacks and Latinos were treated more harshly than Whites, being more likely to be arrested instead of given a summons when compared to White people accused of the same crimes.

In addition, Blacks and Latinos were also more likely to have force used against them by police. The amount of force used against African American and Hispanics did not only affect them physically but also created lasting feelings of resentment and distrust on officers. “People who have been stopped say that if they show the slightest bit of resistance, even verbally, they can find themselves slammed against walls, forced to the ground and, on rarer occasions, with officer’s guns pointed at their heads.”(Rivera). The experience of being stopped and frisked by police often lasted emotionally. People who were stopped felt a range of emotions during stops, such as anger, fear, and shame. Stop and frisk left people feeling unsafe and afraid to leave their homes whenever they see the police. People who were stopped reported that stops often resulted in excessive force by police, for example when officers slapped them, beat them, or hurt them physically. The force not always paid out compared to the effect that it left on the people. Being harassed in public, a person could go through life challenges, feeling hopeless, uncomfortable, vulnerable and high alert. The body and the mind get tensed and start to get conscious around the surroundings that stares and ignores with a disgusting looks.

Therefore, in the article of Rivera, two officers stopped a man named Christopher Graham19 years old after leaving his friend’s apartment. He was pushed against the walls and when the officer groped his personal space, Graham said, “I said, ‘Whoa, what are you doing?’ ” Mr. Graham recalled. “The cop put his hand on the back of my cap and, boom, smashed my head into the wall of the apartment, for no reason.” The aftermath of the frisk was horrible because he had gone through six stitches, terrifying experience and an unfortunate dreadful account with the officers. He was neither arrested nor called for summons but yet had a scar that would remain in his whole life. The stops explored that young people perceived the police whether or not they felt safe where they lived, not to turn to law enforcement for help or to report crimes they knew about. The experience being stopped by police repeatedly perceived to be unfair and could be associated with undesirable developmental consequences.

The Terry v. Ohio supreme court case was one of the biggest cases regarding the policy of stop and frisk. It lasted a great impact on the practice of stop and frisk, sometimes called Terry stop. An officer stopped John Terry the petitionary after the officer observed Terry staring at the store for a possible robbery. The officer ran a quick search and after approaching three men, the officer found revolvers that denied their appeals. The Terry stop gleaned from the information about whether the search was the protection of the officers and the public safety. The stop must have a reasonable suspicion to initiate the suspect and explain why the suspect behavior suggested criminal activity. The stop had to give reasons and explain, more than just hunches. The Terry stop cannot take the suspect to the police, move to a second different location, use excessive force and search for anything besides weapons.

The Floyd vs New York City supreme case was yet one of the biggest controversial on stop and frisk. It was a case that questioned the stops that were not caused due to probable or reasonable stops. It violated the Fourth Amendment and the Fourteen Amendment which was not an equal protection due to all the obvious racial disparities in who is stopped and searched by NYPD. Both the Supreme Court case lawsuit challenged the use of stop and frisk as a violation guaranteed to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Comparing the differences between past stop and frisk and the recent ones that have taken place, I believe the recent ones have become more lenient towards the people. In the past, the officers did not stop a person because of reasonable suspicion; they were stopping to fulfill the record of their data and show their superiors what they have done for the day. The data recorded in stop and frisk was recorded in the person’s background check. The record stayed in the data for a lifetime, which did not come in the good outcome because even though they were innocent a criminal record was there in the system. Plus, during the olden days, police stopped a person regarding their guesses and suspicion and did not have a valid reason for a stop. After the supreme cases, the violation of the Fourth and Fourteen Amendment came to a tight spot where people knew about their rights and the officers grew more attention on the reasonable and suspicions stops. Therefore, based on past and toady’s issues time in New York City, after the cases, it provides an environment by bringing humanity together without any kind of race and social system. The stop and frisk that adapted during the beginning early was a process of improving the city. Looking back at the times when the rights were violated and not respected, we can just emphasize and see the wrongdoings that can be prevented today.

Stop and frisk is not just an impractical way of fighting crime in New York City but also violated towards people\’s right to walk freely. People were being stopped based on their skin color and appearance, the way they walked and even the neighborhood they lived in. The use of force against the minorities left them devastated and also affected others who lived under the same weight of this unprecedented policy. These stops had become extensive that many people learned to adjust their daily routines to protect themselves from regular police harassment. Thus, it created distrust towards the law and harmed people who were already disadvantaged in our city.

The effects on crime rate were not so huge either. It did make a difference in the statistics but compare to the stops and the statics of crime report, it was humongous. There was no relationship between the stop and frisk and crimes took place. After all the scenario of protest, the New York City police restricted their stop and frisk policy two years ago. Even after restricting the policy, there were no impact or increases in the crime rates. In fact, the crimes had gone down and were stable as it was. In another hand, it did keep guns off the street but unfortunately; violating constitutional rights of some of the minorities did not work together with the policy.

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