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Unfortunate Return of Stop-and-Frisk

Wed, 05/18/2022 - 09:35


There should no longer be any mistaking the racist core of what has become of the Republican Party, both nationally and in our own state. Robert Astorino announced this week his support for bringing back so-called stop-and-frisk policing, in which New York City officers detained and questioned people they thought might be involved in criminal activity more than five million times between 2002 and 2013 — the vast majority of them Black and Latino young men.

By 2009, Black and Latino people were nine times more likely to be stopped by police than whites. Years into the practice, Black residents, though just 26 percent of the New York City population, accounted for 51 percent of all stops, researchers at Columbia University found.

This policy, instituted by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, gave the sense that the N.Y.P.D. was at war with people of color, especially in poorer neighborhoods. It also hampered police work in that the affected residents began to look at law enforcement with increased suspicion.

But stop-and-frisk did not produce the wave of arrests that its backers expected. Just 14 out of every 10,000 stops conducted turned up a gun, and only 1,200 out of every 10,000 ended with a fine, an arrest, or the seizure of an illegal weapon of any kind, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which also said that white people were more than twice as likely as people of color to be found with a gun.

The standards by which officers decided who seemed suspicious were loosely defined. Among the cues police looked for among men and boys as young as 13 were “furtive” movements. Anything and anyone could be targeted, for walking at night, sitting on a bench, even looking over a shoulder. Mr. Bloomberg reversed his support for stop-and-frisk when he sought the Democratic nomination for president in the 2016 election. And, despite predictions that crime rates would soar once the policy ended, they fell dramatically.

Racist tropes about crime rank high among Republicans’ talking points. During the Senate confirmation hearing in March for Supreme Court nominee Kentanji Brown Jackson, the right-wing members of the judiciary committee repeatedly demonstrated the lengths to which they would go to spread race-based animosity. Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn was particularly shameless, bringing up critical race theory and the 1619 Project — both part of the G.O.P.’s scare tactics — but her repeated reference to “the street” in her closing statement really stood out, in its bald attempt to evoke imaginary urban stereotypes. Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, the de facto leader of today’s Republican Party, demanded on air to know Judge Brown Jackson’s law school entrance exam score, something he had never asked about any previous white nominee.

Mr. Astorino and people who share his view, whether genuinely or for political advantage, perpetuate a sense that there are two Americas, when in truth, the way to fight crime effectively is to acknowledge that we are all in this together. Dividing us only makes us weaker as a nation.

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