Most people knew the NYPD’s "stop and frisk" program was racist, but until now the proof was mainly in the statistics. No more: according to former NYPD captain and current New York State Senator Eric Adams, Commissioner Ray Kelly told him the program was meant to "instill fear" in the city’s black and Latino men so that they knew they were being watched "every time they left their homes."
From Ryan Devereaux’s article in The Guardian:
Adams had traveled to Albany for a meeting on 10 July 2010 with the governor to give his support for a bill that would prohibit the NYPD from maintaining a database that would include the personal information of individuals stopped by the police but released without a charge or summons. In discussing the bill, which ultimately passed, Adams said he raised the issue of police stops disproportionately targeting young African American and Latino men.
"[Kelly] stated that he targeted and focused on that group because he wanted to instill fear in them that every time that they left their homes they could be targeted by police," Adams testified.
"How else would we get rid of guns," Adams said Kelly asked him.
Adams told the court he was stunned by the commissioner’s claim and immediately expressed his concerns. "I was amazed," Adams testified. "I told him that was illegal."
Adams shared this information during his testimony at the Floyd v. City of New York trial, where "stop and frisk's" Constitutionality is currently being challenged. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, 86% of those stopped (and frisked) in the past eleven years have been black or Latino.
Photo Credit: COLORLINES
In spite of nationwide criticism over the policy, which basically allows New York police officers to halt and search anybody anywhere at any time, even if "probable cause" and "reasonable suspicion" are absent, the city itself appears evenly split as to its acceptability:
According to a New York Times poll from August 2012, 55% of white New Yorkers deem the policy acceptable, along with an intriguing 48% of Latinos, while 56% of blacks and 44% of Latinos, on the other hand, find it excessive.
These allegations against Police Commissioner Kelly could have broader legal implications, but the immediate effect on popular opinion should be telling: in particular, how many New Yorkers will continue to support "stop and frisk" now that they know of its explicitly racist intentions?
If that same NYT poll were conducted today, I’d guess not much would change. Acceptance of "stop and frisk" seems largely rooted in a fear of certain populations accessing firearms, sometimes even among those very same populations. And this fear is clearly divided along racial lines: whether this fact is officially out in the open (as now) or kept under wraps (as it was before, kind of), these anxieties won’t disappear overnight.
And the broader cultural and historical oppressions that created and now maintain these fears won’t disappear for a long while. We have enough trouble acknowledging their existence in the first place.