SENTINEL 7-19-2012
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"The Rotten Apple" & Racism

The NYPD's fallacy of 'race neutral' policing

The Firpo Files

(Sentinel, July 19, 2012)


Though nicknamed "The Big Apple," New York City's treatment of Black men earns it the alternate title, "The Rotten Apple." According to critics, the New York Police Department (NYPD) doesn't even try to hide its blatant racism against all People of Color, but especially Black males.

The New York Times article, "Number of People Stopped by Police Soars in New York" (February 3, 2007), says much. How many people? Disturbingly, over a half million! Michelle Alexander, in her revealing book, The New Jim Crow (2010), elaborates on these pedestrian stops:

Stop-and-Flop: "The New York Police Department released statistics in February 2007 showing that during the prior year its officers stopped an astounding 508,540 people--an average of 1,393 per day--who were walking down the street, perhaps on their way to the subway, grocery store, or bus stop. Often the stops included searches for illegal drugs or guns--searches that frequently required people to lie face down [or flop down] on the pavement or stand spread-eagled against a wall while police officers aggressively groped all over their bodies while bystanders watched or walked by. The vast majority of those stopped and searched were racial minorities, and more than half were African American."

The NYPD started collecting the above data after the horrific, unjustified killing of Amadou Diallo in February 1999, an unarmed African immigrant with no criminal record whatsoever. The 22-year-old was mercilessly gunned down by four White NYPD officers just outside his apartment. This incident sparked a rash of protests, resulting in New York's state attorney general commissioning a series of studies.

The First Study: The Office of the Attorney General of New York State called its study, Report on the New York City Police Department's "Stop & Frisk" Practices. It found that Blacks were stopped six times more often than Whites. And even though all these stops were made, the Street Crime Unit (the outfit with elite officers, including the four White ones that killed Diallo in a hail of bullets, trained to identify gun-toting criminals) "yielded a weapon in only 2.5 percent of all stops," says Alexander.

The Frightening Frequency of "Stop-And-Frisk": Alarmingly, instead of being more circumspect in connection with stop-and-frisk, the NYPD became more aggressive with this policy! Alexander exposes: "The NYPD stopped five times more people in 2005 than in 2002--the overwhelming majority of whom were African American or Latino."  

A study by the Center for Constitutional Rights dated January 15, 2009, entitled, "Racial Disparity in NYPD Stops-and-Frisks: Preliminary Report on UF-250 Data from June 2005 through June 2008," discloses more troubling news. Alexander summarizes a portion of the study as she writes: "By 2008, the NYPD stopped 545,000 in a single year, and 80 percent of the people stopped were African Americans and Latinos. Whites comprised a mere 8 percent of people frisked by the NYPD, while African Americans accounted for 85 percent of all frisks." That's approaching a half million Blacks!

Whites Have More Guns?: The particularly unnerving part about all this is, Whites have been documented as carrying more guns than Blacks! In a follow-up article to the one stated at the outset, the New York Times came out with one entitled, "Study Finds Tens of Thousands of Street Stops by N.Y. Police Unjustified." (October 26, 2012) Predicating her conclusion on material found in this article, Alexander says that "less than 1 percent of stops (0.15) [in poor communities of color] resulted in guns being found." She further divulges that "guns and other contraband were seized less often in stops of African Americans and Latinos than of whites"!

Darius Charney, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, asserts that these studies confirm the obvious when it comes to stop-and-frisk patterns: "It is really race, not crime, that is driving this."

Electronic "Branding": Harry G. Levine and Loren Siegel of the Drug Policy Alliance write that the NYPD (and other departments) make minor marijuana arrests of men of color so as to collect fingerprints, photographs, and other information to enter into criminal databases. Aside from using these arrestees as "training opportunities" for rookie cops, some of these same arrestees may never have been convicted, but are nonetheless ‘branded' for life.  Without documenting that a minor "drug offense" was involved, police, prosecutors, employers and housing officials all use these databases.

Disconcertingly, Blacks are five times more likely to be arrested than Whites, prompting some to ask, Did "The Rotten Apple" fall far from the "Tree" that is America?