Stop and Frisk in America

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Sheakwon Vaughn uses several online sources to break down what stop and frisk really is. We will discuss the rate among African Americans and how this law is a free ticket for excessive policing and discrimination.

Submitted: October 12, 2015

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Submitted: October 12, 2015

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Sheakwon Vaughn

University of Bridgeport

30 March 2015

Black men are targets especially in policing. The Stop and Frisk law has targeted many minority groups wrongfully. This law allows police officers to racially profile men of color as a negative object in society. Some white police officers abuse their power and express their racism and ideology of maintaining white power under this blanket of "Stop and Frisk". Statistics show that the majority of the people convicted were African American and Latino men. There is a growing relationship between police officers who are willing to avoid termination by keeping certain facts and details out of the equation when they are accused. As a result of this law many Black men have been racially profiled and harassed which indicates there is a flaw with the law.

What is “Stop and Frisk”? The Legal Information Institute explains, “The Fourth Amendment requires that the police have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed before stopping a suspect. If the police reasonably suspect the person is armed and dangerous, they may conduct a frisk, a quick pat-down of the person's outer clothing”(1). Here we see the goal of this law. However, it has become one of the most controversial police procedures. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, “since 2003 more than 85% of the alleged suspects stopped and frisked were innocent”(NYCLU 1). Also the majority of individuals stopped were Black or Latino. As this law looms across the country, we begin to question it. Does the Stop and Frisk law target Blacks and Latinos? Is the Stop and Frisk law fair? On many occasions we have come across many individuals who claim that their rights were violated and the police have abused their power long enough. Throughout our research we will come across a young man, Black, who was stop 60 times before the age of 18. It would be a dreaded shame to have come this far as a nation to have the police, once again, violate and degrade minorities under unjust circumstances.

According to the New York Times, “A former New York police officer who used a racial slur while bragging about falsely arresting a black man last year was sentenced on Friday to nine months in prison for violating the man's civil rights. The former officer, Michael Daragjati, 33 who is white, was recorded telling a friend on the telephone last year that he had 'fried another nigger,' explaining that he had falsely charged a man with resisting arrest after stopping and frisking him on Staten Island. The man was held in jail for nearly two days”(Secret & Edwards 1). As we look at this situation regarding Daragjati, we begin to question what was it that allowed Daragjati to mistake the Black man for a person of any threat? As we discuss this, we explore an entirely new topic, racial profiling. It is quite obvious that Daragjati is a racist and he made that quite clear on his telephone call. This shows us that racism still does exist and it is not something that will vanish on its own. The Stop and Frisk law highly targets minorities and its a difficult thing to still have to live with in 2015. Many may argue and say its not racial profiling in fact, it is “appearance profiling”.

If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wore suits and ties and police still beat and hosed he and his supporters down, saying “appearance profiling” is totally out of place.

As he appeared in court, Mr, Daragjati, made a claim that his actions were a “bad judgment call”. He stated that his time spent in jail opened his eyes. “People don't like cops,” he said. “I don't even blame them anymore, with this stop-and-frisk nonsense”(Secret & Edwards 1). Here Daragjati admits that his preconceived perception of the Black man was invalid. Without realizing it, he declines to a mediocre state inside the court room and tells the judge he has children hoping that his own pity toward the man will save him. “Now how do I explain to them Daddy is in jail?”(Secret & Edwards 1), he explains. The judge responds, “Today you attempt to hide behind the real anguish of your family. You say nothing about the impact your actions have on the people you have abused”( Secret & Edwards 1) It is quite obvious that Daragjati is not aware of his actions and how they affect others.

The way Black men are treated is the antithesis of what is in our United States constitution.

Shawun Gabbidon and Geroge E. Higgins stated in 1899, which is more than 100 years ago, “a comprehensive study of an African American neighborhood...found that the arrests in the area were tainted by pervasive discrimination and unwarranted arrests by the police”(1). This shows that there is a cycle that we have managed to keep going over the course of 100 years. Now we have the Stop and Frisk policies in place and this only worsens the situation. Making the discriminating nature of police legal.

In “The Role of Race/Ethnicity...Treatment of Blacks By The Police.” Gibbidon and Higgins both prove their point in the following example: “On July 16 2009, around noon, the distinguished black university professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., of Harvard, arrived at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, after a trip to the Peoples Republic of China. Harvard University provided him with a limousine service and a driver, also a black male. The driver carried his pieces of luggage to the front door, which Dr. Gates attempted to open with his key. Having some difficulty opening the door, he asked the driver to help him force it open. What happened next set off a chain of events that resulted in Dr. Gates' arrest, and charges of racial profiling and police abuse of power that sucked in the first black president of the US. The story made headlines nationwide and divided public opinion along racial lines. Gates' arrest revealed a sharp racial division over what police can do to innocent black citizens in the privacy of their own home. About 40 percent of white Americans believed the police were right in requiring Professor Gates to prove that he was the legal resident and to arrest him when he challenged their authority”(2). According to Robert Staples, this piece of evidence, “discusses the treatment of African Americans by the police, emphasizing the history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment”(2). There has been several occasions throughout American history where Black men have been mistaken or profiled as a negative being in society. It is similar to sexism and ageism. These are things that we as a society have developed through social cognition. The method of policing needs to be changed or else we, as a nation, will continue to accuse those who are innocent for the very wrong reasons; and one reason being the color of skin.

The New York City Liberties Union, puts into perspective the jaw dropping statistics showing; “Last year alone, police officers in New York City stopped and frisked people 685,724 times. Eighty-seven percent of those searches involved blacks or Latinos, many of them young men, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. The practice of stop-and-frisk has become increasingly controversial, but what is often absent from the debate are the voices of young people affected by such aggressive policing on a daily basis”(1).

We meet a young man named Tyquan Brehon, he resides in New York City borough of Brooklyn. This young man has been stopped by police officers sixty times before his 18th birthday. Immediately anyone reading this title must have some sort of concern as to why this is taking place? The article goes on to say he, “did what ever he could to avoid the police”(Dressner & Martinez 1). This is very strange, you would assume if this is true, what is this young man doing to attract police attention. Or, what he is wearing? Dressner and Martinez also stated that, “His fear of police also set back his education”(1). By now, the reader will assume that whatever the situation is that Mr. Brehon is facing it has to be detrimental enough to impact his education. Tyquan explains, “I would do stuff that would get me suspended so I could be, like, completely away from the cops”(Dressner & Martinez 1). This shows that Tyquan is a target for police, he is being used as a toy in the eye of the NYPD.

Over the course of the 60 times Tyquan had been stopped, there were no charges filed against him. This is appearance/racial profiling at its best. Tyquan can not change the color of his skin which is primarily the main reason he was stopped in the first place. Most police of today focus more on race than they do any other factor when approaching any situation. Eventually, Tyquan's decisions to purposely get suspended led to expulsion. Wisely, Tyquan continued his education at Bushwick Community High School and joined an organizing group in New York City.

Dressner and Martinez also give an example of how this young man turned his life around, “Because of his experiences, he now hopes to attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice and to become a lawyer”(2). In return, Tyquan wants to help those who fall victim to racial profiling.

How do we as a society prevent things like this from happening to anyone? What are some of the steps we can take to better the idea of policing across our country? Stop and Frisk has become the spring board for discrimination, profiling and degrading of minorities. This law has opened the wrong can of worms. This law is doing more than discriminating, it prevents young Black men like Tyquan from reaching their full potential because of the fear policing embeds in their minds.

Jerome H. Skolnick, a scholar from New York University, proposes a question we all should ask ourselves, “How should we and the law think about race and suspicion in policing?”(67). This question is a very difficult one, when you think about race it is something that you cannot disregard because it is the first thing a person sees. We cannot walk around with bags over our heads and study police behavior thereafter. There is a deeper core; there is a stigma attached to Black men or men of color which distinguish them from other members of society. We have labeled Black men and men of color as violent and devious. Have we come to an immutable state when it comes to treatment of minorities

in this country? That the only resolution we can come up with are those of draconian measures, obliterating the idea of America being a free country. We must not say police should not approach every situation in a judicious manner, they are trained to be well observant and aware. No matter how convoluted the situation may be, they must maintain professionalism. But when you add Stop and Frisk to the picture, it makes everyone’s life miserable. No one person can change the color of their skin but only their character. In the same text Randall Kennedy, argues “the courts and police should never base their judgments and actions on race”(Skolnick 67). This is something I am sure many will argue as unavoidable, we will never come in contact with someone who has a sign that reads “PREDJUDICE” across their foreheads. Although it may not be spoken of as a factor, let us try telling the wrongfully convicted Black men in jail today that their wrongful sentence had nothing to do with their race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

* - Indicates work used from UB Library.

Dressner, Julie and Martinez, Edwin. “The Scars of Stop and Frisk” The New York Times 12, June 2012 Web: 23, March 2015

 

*Gabbidon, Shaun L., and George E. Higgins. "The Role Of Race/Ethnicity And Race Relations On Public Opinion Related To The Treatment Of Blacks By The Police."Police Quarterly12.1 (2009): 102-115.Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.

 

Legal Information Institute. “Stop and Frisk.”Stop and Frisk.Cornell University Law School. 2012

Web. 30 Mar 2015

 

Leland, John and Moynahan, Colin. “Thousands March Silently to Protest Stop and Frisk Policies” The New York Times” 17, 6 (2014): Web 23 March 2015

 

*Secret, Mosi, and Aaron Edwards. "Ex-Officer Gets 9-Month Sentence Over Racially Tainted False Arrest."New York Times23 June 2012: 16.Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.

 

*Staples, Robert. "White Power, Black Crime, And Racial Politics."Black Scholar41.4 (2011): 31- 41.Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.

 

Stop and Frisk Data. “Stop-and-Frisk Data | New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) – American

Civil Liberties Union of New York State. “Stop anf Frisk Data | New York Civil Liberties

Union (NYCLU) – American Civil Liberties Union of New York State. New York Civil Liberties Union, 2013. Web. 30 Mar. 2015

*Skolnick, Jerome H. “Racial Profiling Then and Now” Criminology & Public Policy Vol. 6, Issue 1

(65-70) Feb. 2007, Wiley Online Library: 23 March 2015


© Copyright 2018 Sheakwon Vaughn. All rights reserved.

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