Potter: NYC should reform stop-and-frisk policy, eliminate racial profiling

Five New York Police Department unions filed to block the settlement of New York City’s stop-and-frisk lawsuit, according to a Feb. 7 Huffington Post article.

Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ordered a broad reform of this policy, including federal supervision, due to its unconstitutionality.

Judge Scheindlin’s ruling accepted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s settlement and discontinued the appeal process.  The NYPD is strongly opposed to this settlement.

The controversial stop-and-frisk policy is effective in taking guns off the streets, but it unfairly targets minorities. Crime control is extremely important, but it is unacceptable that the policy jeopardizes basic rights and uses racial profiling.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, in 2012, 55 percent of New Yorkers stopped were black, 32 percent were Latino and only 10 percent were white.

If a high percentage of those stopped and frisked by NYPD were found guilty of a crime, these statistics would be justified. However, 89 percent of those stopped were completely innocent.

It is painfully obvious that a vast majority of these stops were not based on reasonable suspicion, but rather discrimination and racial profiling.

Racial profiling does not add to the effectiveness of the policy. Although it is mostly minorities being stopped, whites are twice as likely to be found with a weapon, according to the Huffington Post article.

Despite its faults, stop-and-frisk has successfully reduced the number of guns and other weapons on New York City streets. According to NYPD representative Paul Browne, 70,000 to 80,000 weapons have been taken off the streets in the past decade as a direct result of stop-and-frisk.

This undoubtedly increases the safety of New York’s streets, but at the cost of invasive personal rights violations for minorities.

The NYPD has one thing right — it is necessary to have means to seize weapons off the city’s streets. However, stop-and-frisk should be reformed to reduce racially biased stops or replaced by a non-discriminatory policy.

When law enforcement is discriminatory and unjust, it leads to a lack of trust between law enforcement officers and struggling communities.

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, 88 percent of residents in areas where stop-and-frisk occurs frequently do not believe that the residents of their neighborhood trust the police. In order to effectively control crime and help residents, the police must be viewed as a trusted and respectable authority.

Mayor de Blasio and Judge Scheindlin are correct in attempting to reform the policy. However, these reforms may not go far enough to remove racial biases and underlying problems in the legislation.

It is imperative that there is no ambiguous language written in the legislation that allows police officers to racially profile citizens when executing the policy. The reforms should work toward creating a positive and less invasive relationship between citizens and law enforcement.

Any policy, despite its effectiveness and necessity, must entirely abide by the rights of citizens outlined in the Constitution. These rights must apply equally to all citizens regardless of race.

Once we start accepting questionable policies, even those that appear to be effective, we are opening the floodgates for more constitutional and discriminatory violations. Our history is filled with racial discrimination and inequality that must be continuously overcome.

Stop-and-frisk is a step backward in terms of racial equality in the United States and the reform or replacement of this policy is essential. The filings on behalf of the NYPD unions should not prevent de Blasio’s comprehensive reform of stop-and-frisk.

Rachel Potter is a junior political science and sociology major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at




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