Reasonable Suspicion

From the West Coast to the East, here’s some news from occupied New York. After a great deal of stonewalling and under intense pressure from New York civil liberties groups, the NYPD has finally released reports on the results of its recent revival of random warrantless stop-and-frisk. Not surprisingly, the results demonstrate that not only is this police power fascist in principle, but also the application of the program is overwhelmingly racist in practice.

The NYPD last night released a report on its controversial stop-and-frisk procedure that breaks down by precinct — and by race — those who’ve been targeted.

The figures, all from 2011, show the precinct with the most stops by sheer numbers was Brooklyn’s 75th, which includes East New York and Cypress Hills.

More than 31,000 people were stopped, 97 percent of them either black or Hispanic.

Brooklyn’s 73rd Precinct, covering Brownsville, was the next highest, with 25,167 stops. About 98 percent involved minorities.

The 115th Precinct — which includes East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights in Queens — ranked third, with 18,156 stops. Nearly 93 percent of those involved minorities, the figures show.

The 40th Precinct in The Bronx, which covers Mott Haven and Melrose, racked up the next highest number — 17,690 — with 98.5 percent involving minorities.

And at No. 5 was the 90th Precinct in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where there were 17,566 stops, with 88.6 percent involving minorities.

The New York Civil Liberties Union had fought for release of the stats last year.

After getting them, the civil-rights group said they show a pattern of racial profiling — a charge that the NYPD denies.

— Natasha Velez, NYPD releases stop-frisk data, New York Post (Feb 5, 2013)

The NYPD, like most police forces, routinely issues blanket denials of obvious empirical facts, and expects to be believed because the press conference is called in an alternate dimension, where 98+% of all stops just happen to be directed at harassing black or Latin@ victims because of some objective and racially neutral standard of Reasonable Suspicion. In the real world, of course, outside of political power-trip la-la land, Reasonable Suspicion is an entirely meaningless standard, which in practice means nothing more than a police officer’s unreflective and unsubstantiated gut feelings about whether or not someone looks like they are up to no good. And whatever the intentions of NYPD management may have been in designing the policy, or the criteria, the overwhelmingly obvious practical effect of this kind of massive discretionary police power is a campaign of in-effect discriminatory racial harassment by police, which is fueled by the subtle and not-so-subtle sorts of racialized anxiety, tension, and suspicion that set off police officers’ gut reactions. (This is of course why giving police the power to use force, detain, threaten and search people, based on nothing more than their inchoate suspicions is a fundamentally terrible and deeply dangerous idea.)

While it appears at first blush to be a slick, fact-filled response, nothing in the report can dispute the reality that stop and frisk NYPD-style is targeted overwhelmingly at people of color, so innocent of any criminal wrongdoing, that all but 12 percent walk away without so much as a ticket, NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.

. . . A total of 685,724 people — 8.6 percent of the city’s population — were detained by cops for reasonable suspicion. [sic] … Of that number, 9 percent were white, and 4 percent Asian, the figures showed.

The No. 1 reason for stop-and-frisks that year was possible weapons possession, the report released yesterday said. . . .

— NYPD releases stop-frisk data…

You might be tempted to call racist harassment the occupational disease of police. If not for the fact that it is their occupation.

This is, incidentally, partly a story about how government policing, and police-state tactics like stop-and-frisk, are assaults on civil liberty in principle, and deeply structurally racist in applied practice. Also, though, — pay attention to the punchline at the end — I have to note that this is also a story about how the immediate practical effect of gun control laws in New York has been to provide the Number One legal pretext for a campaign of highly racialized police harassment. Like drug laws, and like any other law that serves to increase the legal power of police to threaten, coerce or arrest people for contraband possessions, gun control laws also are deeply structurally racist in their immediate practical effects.[1]

Also.

  1. [1] See also Anthony Gregory’s important Who Goes to Prison Due to Gun Control?

Reply to Reasonable Suspicion Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

Post a reply

By:
Your e-mail address will not be published.
You can register for an account and sign in to verify your identity and avoid spam traps.
Reply

Use Markdown syntax for formatting. *emphasis* = emphasis, **strong** = strong, [link](http://xyz.com) = link,
> block quote to quote blocks of text.

This form is for public comments. Consult About: Comments for policies and copyright details.