Letter: Police, don't import stop-and-frisk

New York City police officers demonstrate the stop-and-frisk New York City police officers demonstrate the stop-and-frisk tactic at a training facility at Rodman's Neck. (June 12, 2012) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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Local police departments should think twice before they emulate the New York City Police Department's aggressive and discriminatory stop-and-frisk practices.

Used lawfully, stop-and-frisk is a legitimate law-enforcement tool. However, the NYPD's rampant abuse of the tactic violates the constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of innocent people annually and sows mistrust between police officers and residents of the city's communities of color.

Data suggest that racially biased policing is already widespread in Westchester. For example, blacks were nearly 12 times more likely than whites to be charged with low-level marijuana misdemeanors in the county, according to government statistics for 2011. Increased use of stop-and-frisk tactics would likely intensify the problem.

The leadership structure of the large police agencies in the county provides further cause for concern: In the Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Yonkers and White Plains police departments, of the more than 100 law enforcement personnel holding the rank lieutenant or higher, only three are black. What is more, these departments lack any independent oversight structures, such as New York City's Civilian Complaint Review Board, that might mitigate police misconduct.

Westchester County law-enforcement agencies would do well to implement community policing models that build trust between police officers and the public they serve, rather than adopt the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy.

The New York Civil Liberties Union is part of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform, a group of community members and organizations united to increase transparency and accountability among area law enforcement agencies.

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Daniel E. Berger, White Plains

Editor's note: The writer is the director of the Lower Hudson Valley chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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