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Greer: It's time to end stop and frisk

NYPD shows three different simulated training scenarios of

NYPD shows three different simulated training scenarios of stop-question-frisk. (Charles Eckert) (Credit: NYPD shows three different simulated training scenarios of stop-question-frisk. (Charles Eckert))

This week brought the beginning of a civil trial to determine whether the New York City Police Department has been unconstitutionally stopping black and Hispanic men and boys on the city's streets.

Last week, the NYPD reached the mark of 5 million individuals who have been subjected to its stop-and-frisk policy since the program began in 2002.

Stop and frisk must end.

The mid-20th century African-American social critic and novelist James Baldwin once said, "Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." By no means does that apply to the entire NYPD. But a few bad New York apples are threatening to ruin the barrel.

As most New Yorkers know, the overwhelming majority of people who have been stopped, questioned and frisked while they walked down the street -- by themselves, with friends, with colleagues, with their children, with people standing by watching -- were young men of color: 4.3 million, or 86 percent. How can we expect black and Latino men and boys to feel safe in New York City if they live in fear of being falsely accused of being a predator -- and being quickly turned into prey by certain individuals in a blue uniform?

The policy, conceived during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration and enacted by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, purports to give the NYPD the right to stop and search any individual deemed suspicious. But a recent New York Civil Liberties Union analysis found little evidence that stop-and-frisk tactics actually identify individuals who are guilty of a crime. Most were merely guilty of being black or Latino in New York City.

That's no reason to be stopped, searched, humiliated, intimidated, detained and possibly arrested.

Stop and frisk is a form of racial profiling: It disproportionately targets a particular segment of the population with the assumption that a particular demographic is guilty of a crime with no prior evidence. If we as a collective body of New Yorkers are to become a city that treats all citizens with equal levels of respect and protection, we must end stop and frisk. We can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse for inaction. If we do, we too have become enemies of justice.

Christina M Greer, assistant professor of political science at Fordham University, tweets as Dr_CMGreer.

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