There has been continuing coverage and public dialogue regarding the following “stop and frisk” data collected by the Center for Constitutional Rights (http://ccrjustice.org):
684,330 stops by New York police.
87 percent were black or Hispanic.
10 percent led to arrest or a summons.
1 percent led to the recovery of a weapon
These are the data. But there’s more. Black and Latino lawmakers in New York say they are fed up with the frequency of these stops. What they have to say is largely by their own personal experience of having been stopped and frisked by police. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/nyregion/fighting-stop-and-frisk-tactic-but-hitting-racial-divide.html)
According to a recent poll, 59 percent of whites voters approve of the practice. Twenty-seven percent of blacks don’t.
There is a racial divide here yet both the mayor and police commissioner support tactic.
The commissioner stated recently, “People are upset about being stopped, yet what is the answer?”
I have an answer, commissioner — civility.
And it is clearly stated in my book that it needs to be a governing culture of civility within our nation’s police:
“…if civility was to be an operational value within a police department, it also meant that its leaders needed to have polite and courteous interactions with their officers. Civility is an essential ingredient in both the practice of internal leadership and the conduct of external community relations. Without public cooperation police have little chance of accomplishing their mission, and a discourteous police department much less. This means that a culture of respect and politeness must be created, nurtured, and maintained. While citizens may be expected to react negatively to verbal abuse, the same cannot be expected from a professional police officer. The standard is this: police must be courteous to a fault. By that I mean police should never over-react, return insults, or in any way be discourteous – regardless of the provocation, situation, or individual.”
It may not be that the technique itself, that is reasonably stopping and frisking suspicious folks is wrong, but HOW it is done is the crux of the matter here. I have not heard of anyone so far arguing that police could, perhaps, stop and frisk with more finesse; that is with courtesy, civility, and without destroying the dignity of the person being stopped.
It that possible? I, for one, think it is. A stop and frisk does not have to peel the dignity and worth from a person being stopped. Bad frisks turn good citizens into enemies of the police. That’s what appears to be happening in New York.
In my book, I also quote a young, black college student who said it best of all:
” The police use the excuse that they’re fighting crime to continue the practice, but no one has ever actually proved that it reduces crime or makes the city safer. Those of us who live in the neighborhoods where stop-and-frisks are a basic fact of daily life don’t feel safer as a result.
“We need change. When I was young I thought cops were cool. They had a respectable and honorable job to keep people safe and fight crime. Now, I think their tactics are unfair and they abuse their authority. The police should consider the consequences of a generation of young people who want nothing to do with them — distrust, alienation and more crime.”
Police need to clean-up their inter-racial act. Now. Before it’s too late — again.
Why isn’t this part of the dialogue?