Being Black is Not a Crime: Rally for NYPD Stop and Frisk Reform
Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and City University of New York (CUNY) faculty and students, including John Jay College’s Center on Race, Crime and Justice, came together to call for police reform outside Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York where the trial Floyd, et. al. v City of New York featured key testimony from criminologist Jeffrey Fagan. In Floyd, several New Yorkers and CCR are arguing that the city’s stop-and-frisk policies include racial profiling and suspicion-less stops that violate constitutional protections.
Organizer and Founding Director of the Center on Race, Crime and Justice Dr. Delores Jones-Brown underscored that black and Latino residents have the same constitutional rights and right to safety as anyone else. “The commissioner and the mayor may say that these policies are effective, but their own data tell a different story,” she said.
Activists held giant PowerPoint slides with NYPD data indicating that gun violence has not decreased as a result of aggressive use of stop and frisk, nor were more guns confiscated or shootings prevented. In 9 out of 10 NYPD stops, no arrests or summons are given — and of those stops nearly 90 percent are non-whites. In 2012, over a half-million blacks and Latinos were stopped. Black and Latino young men between the ages of 14 and 24 are particularly plagued by unjustified stops, accounting for approximately 42% of stops when they are only 5% of the city’s total population.
Several CUNY students spoke about their personal experiences with racial profiling and suspicion-less stops, putting faces to the statistics being debated about in the courtroom. One white student described an incident in which he should have received a summons for two potential violations, but instead was released politely by police, while a student of color described being the victim of police abuse of the stop and frisk policy while he was doing nothing illegal. Other activists linked the struggle for racial equality with similar struggles for police justice for LGBTQ people and the poor.
Queens College Professor Harry Levine explained that the sheer number of marijuana arrests in the city are largely the fruit of illegal frisks, saying that ”The marijuana arrests are the cracker jack prize of the stop and frisks.”
Crimcast sat in on expert witness Fagan’s cross-examination in which sweeping questions about the normative methodological and theoretical mainstays of criminal justice were posed. The city’s attorney appeared to want to discredit Fagan’s social science because the conclusions to his prior studies point to racially disparate outcomes in stop and frisk police discretion. Rather than confront the lived reality of individuals who routinely endure suspicion-less stops, today’s testimony instead had social science on the stand. As criminologists we were surprised to learn that the city attorney hoped our field had solved major methodological quandaries of our time in completely packaged and unanimous ways, such as how to handle outlier data or whether population is a legitimate benchmark among others for stop and frisk activities. Fagan dodged this baiting, and informed her of the true landscape of methodological variation in the field– and in fact wise minds may take different approaches to monumentally complex datasets.
Crimcast predicts that this trial transcript may be of interest to criminologists regarding the application of their work to major policy issues of the day. Some may even be excited to learn that academic criminology is relevant. But we hope Floyd does not forget Floyd. He and many others encounter the police as obstacles in going about their legitimate daily lives. The chilling quality of these serious Constitutional violations and personal indignities are not fully captured by the numbers.