Stop and Frisk: racist–and ineffective

File Photo: The Rev. Al Sharpton, center, walks with demonstrators during a silent march to end the "stop-and-frisk" program in New York, Sunday, June 17,...
File Photo: The Rev. Al Sharpton, center, walks with demonstrators during a silent march to end the "stop-and-frisk" program in New York, Sunday, June 17,...
Seth Wenig/AP Photo/File

Stop and frisk, a practice enforced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, has been used more than four million times since 2002  in an effort to keep inner-city crime under control. But the numbers show that the tactic is ineffective–leaving the city with, in essence, a policy of racial harassment.

Many urban communities are outraged because the policy targets African-Americans and Latinos. “It disgusts me to think that my young son may grow up one day and face this type of harassment,” says Harlem resident Daniva Rutherford, a 26-year-old mother of two and active member of the Tenant Association. According to The New York Times,  “in 2012, the number of street stops in New York from January through March rose to 203,500 from 183,326 during the same quarter of 2011.” On June 17, 2012, thousands of people silently marched from Harlem down to Mayor Bloomberg’s office in lower Manhattan to protest the policy.

Mayor Bloomberg has stood firm behind stop-and-frisk. “There is no denying that ‘stops’ take guns off the street and save lives,” he said on June 10, 2012, at a church in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in a neighborhood where the tactic is frequent. “I believe the practice needs to be mended, not ended, to ensure that stops are conducted appropriately, with as much courtesy as possible.” According to, 685,724 stops were made in New York City in 2011; 88% of those stopped were not charged with any crime; 84% of those stopped were African-American or Latino.

Did you know that guns are found in less than .02% of stops? So while it may be getting a few guns off the street and save a few lives, it’s at the cost of violating a targeted group’s Constitutional rights. A few years ago my older cousin was visiting our grandmother in the James Weldon Johnson housing projects in East Harlem when he was slammed up against a gate and forced to spread his legs while a cop felt him up and down. My cousin felt groped.  A college graduate working at Mt. Sinai hospital, my cousin has avoided visiting my grandmother ever since, saying the experience made him feel violated. Although the stop and frisk should be used only if the police have reasonable suspicion, I often witness the youth in my Harlem neighborhood being slammed up, yelled at, and patted down by the NYPD, based solely on the color of their skin and residential location.

I see it happening but I have never personally experienced this: in addition the racial factor,  it also is a sexist policy, as men are the ones who suffer the public humiliation. The Cycle’s host Toure explores the stop and frisk process in this video clip, but it’s hard to convey the force and intensity of the real thing.

Imagine you were on your way home from school and, out of an unmarked car, someone yelled, “Hey you,” jumped out of the car and started to pat you all over while you were still trying to register what was happening. That was the situation that Hannington Dia, 22, a city college student from Kew Gardens, described to msnbc. He was told there was a man running around with a knife in Hillside Jamaica and that he fit the description. When he questioned the uniformed officers, they said, “I can do whatever I want to you.”  Is this the courtesy that Bloomberg speaks of?

The urban communities who criticize stop and frisk are the ones most likely to suffer from gun violence. It’s in their interest for city police and Mayor Bloomberg to find a more effective way to get deadly weapons off the street.  It’s 2012: target the guns, not the black man.

For ways to take action against the stop and frisk policy visit