Observers
Screen grab from a video of a stop-and-frisk posted on YouTube
 
Outrage is growing in New York City over the use of “stop-and-frisk,” a controversial policing tactic that allows officers to stop and search anyone they consider suspicious. Some claim that this practice leads the police to disproportionately target black or Latino New Yorkers.
 
The policy's critics argue that police officers are making use of racial profiling, which is illegal under the Civil Rights Act. According to data compiled by the New York Civil Liberties Union, 88 percent of those stopped by New York police last year were innocent, and 87 percent were black or Latino. Among black males ages 14 to 24, the number of stops last year was greater than their total population.
 
City authorities, meanwhile, argue that the people they stop who turn out not to be innocent are responsible for much of the city’s crime. Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently said: “If we stopped people based on census numbers [Ed. Note: meaning to stop people of a certain demographic category in proportion to their percentage of the population], we would stop many fewer criminals, recover many fewer weapons and allow many more violent crimes to take place." He added that this did not mean the police engaged in racial profiling.
 
Sunday, thousands of New Yorkers marched silently down Fifth Avenue to protest the policy. The protest culminated at the home of Mayor Bloomberg.
 
Anti-stop-and-frisk protesters marched in silence in New York City on Sunday.
 
Last month, a federal judge said that the police force’s own records showed many of the stops did not meet the constitutional standard for searches, paving the way for a massive class-action lawsuit against the New York police department.
 
New York City police frisking and then letting go a young man.

'The police officers come up to you and start patting you down, usually without telling you why'

Cory Smith is a 16-year-old high school student. He lives in the South Bronx. Cory is part Puerto Rican, part African American.
 
Since I turned 15, I’ve been stopped and frisked by the police over a dozen times. To be honest, I’ve stopped counting. It happens when I’m coming home from school, from friends’ houses, from the store. It’s happened during the day, but it’s more often at night. If I’m out in the street at 9 or 10 o’clock with two or three other friends, there’s a good chance they will stop us. And none of these times have I ever been doing anything illegal or even suspicious.
 
The police officers come up to you and start patting you down, usually without telling you why. They’ll search your pockets too. If you’re with a girl, they’ll ask a female police officer to pat her down. When you get stopped, you feel like you’re already guilty. The police act like you’re the scum of the earth, and treat you like you’re a criminal before you’ve even done anything. And it’s scary, too, because any sudden move can be seen as provoking them. You have to be very careful about your body language. Unless you’re lucky and someone’s filming the scene, like what happened with Rodney King, it’s always going to be your word against theirs.
 
"They don’t teach you how to react to being stopped by the police in school"
 
You learn not to say anything, either, because if you ask questions they’ll feel like you’re attacking them, and that gives them a reason to be more violent. I have friends who have gotten upset and the next thing you know, the officer says they’re aggressive, and takes them in to the station. They don’t teach you how to react to being stopped by the police in school.
 
These stops are a big problem for all my friends here in the South Bronx. We feel targeted because of our race, because of the way we dress, because we’re in a neighbourhood where there’s a lot of public housing. I’ve never been stopped when I’m walking in Manhattan! It seems like the police feel that here in the South Bronx, it doesn’t matter if they throw you up against a wall. It’s embarrassing – it happens in public, and people from your neighbourhood see this and assume you’re a hoodlum. It makes you feel like less than everyone else. And if you feel people expect less of you, then you don’t have a standard to live up to – and I think that makes it easier to fall through the cracks.
 
 
Colorlines.com interviewed multiple young black men living in Brooklyn about their experiences being stopped and frisked by police.
 
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Gaelle Faure.