Last week, New York Police Commissioner made an important step towards reducing the number of illegal street stops in New York City. The misuse of stop and frisk by the NYPD represents one of the more significant civil rights issues for the city, state, and nation.
The NYPD is on pace to shatter last year's record of 686,000 stops, with stops in the first quarter of 2012 up 11% over the same period last year.
Consider this: there are about 512,000 minutes in a year. Last year there were 686,000 stops. That means there was one stop on NYC's streets every 45 seconds.
Now consider this: a stop should only be made if a police officer suspects that the individual is engaging in criminal activity. That means that once every 45 seconds a New York City resident is basically accused of committing a crime.
However, nine out of ten people that are stopped are found to be innocent—they are not charged with a crime or issued a ticket. Last year, there were 605,000 of these "innocent" stops; again occurring at a rate of more than once a minute.
The frequency of stops and the high rate of "innocent" stops indicate that the standard for reasonable suspicion is not being met. This represents a violation of these individuals' civil rights.
Stop and frisk is an important police tool, but clearly the way the tactic is currently used needs reform. While crime does continue to decline in New York City, there is no evidence that utilizing stop and frisk at such a scale—and violating individuals' civil rights in the process—has contributed in any significant way to these declining crime rates.
Police Commissioner Kelly's statement on stop and frisk is an important first step, but more must be done to continue to pressure the administration to reform this practice.
Two weeks ago, DMI co-hosted a panel discussion on stop and frisk at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice with DMI board member Martin Luther King III. Later that day King came together with advocates and elected officials to hold a press conference pleading for the initiation of more dialogue on this issue. Follow this link to see video of MLK III speaking on the issue.
Help DMI continue to fight to build pressure to reform this practice and to protect and preserve our civil rights.
The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy (DMI) is a nonpartisan think tank that partners with advocates, organizers, elected officials, and other leaders to improve policymaking in cities and for cities. We firmly believe progressive urban policy expands the scope of what government can accomplish in the United States. Historically, the results have been seen and felt in better housing options, better safety net protections, better transit access, better workplace rights, better environmental regulations, better assimilation of immigrants, better infrastructure investments, and in many other areas. Our research, analysis, communications, and media efforts focus on how the biggest opportunities for addressing America's current challenges can be found—and seized—in cities. We also train young people from diverse communities to become the next generation of urban policy leaders. Visit www.drummajorinstitute.org for more information.
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