Last Thursday in New York, while everyone was preparing for a night of candy-fueled debauchery, a panel of three federal judges suspended the earlier court ruling that had halted the city's stop-and-frisk policy as unconstitutional.
The panel not only stayed the ruling, but also removed the presiding judge – Shira Scheindlin – from the case, citing an "appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation."
Civil rights groups are outraged at the development, as the policy in its current state allows racial profiling to run rampant. Stop-and-frisk gave "police wide latitude in stopping and questioning people they deem suspicious." Most of the people stopped via this policy have been African-American or Latino.
The New York Civil Liberties Union conducted a study based on the NYPD's own statistics, which validated some aspects about the policy that had been suspected by many.
Nearly 90 percent of individuals stopped and interrogated by police were innocent, which should in itself should call its effectiveness into question. Those who were stopped and interrogated were disproportionately black or Latino. Additionally, blacks and Latinos, once stopped, were more likely to be subjected to force.
In 2011, though blacks and Latinos made up only 8 percent of the population, they accounted for 77 percent of those stopped and frisked in the 6th precinct. Does anyone else smell something foul here?
Many argue that since the inception of stop-and-frisk, crime rates have dropped, but in reality, the policy has done nothing to reduce crime.
Earlier this year, Mayor Bloomberg made the bold statement that "nobody racially profiles." He even went so far as to say that they "disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little."
Even if Bloomberg had individually interviewed every police officer in New York City and had determined in his infallible expertise that none of them expressed bias against minorities, it wouldn't account for an unconscious bias they may possess as a result of institutional racism.
Stop-and-frisk is only a symptom of the larger problem of race-based discrimination inherent in the criminal justice system — not only in New York, but all over the country.
The most profound example is the so-called War on Drugs: although all racial groups in the United States use illegal drugs at about the same rates, minorities are disproportionately imprisoned on drug charges. Minorities also generally receive longer and harsher sentences, and are more likely to receive discrimination based on criminal records after time is served.
In a ColorLines video entitled, "How Does It Feel to be Stopped and Frisked?," some of the young people of Brooklyn said they felt "degraded, violated and belittled," and rightfully so. Some individuals had been stopped and searched by police as many as 20 times in one year—and this is becoming something normal.
The current system generates more tension, resentment and distrust than actual justice. We need a serious re-evaluation of our values and a radical reform of our country's justice system.
The NYCLU has vowed to appeal the court decision, and we should all hope for the best. However, the trouble here existed long before stop-and-frisk was even thought of and will likely last long after it is struck down — if it's struck down.
Andrea Richardson is a sophomore in anthropology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.