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21 August 2013

The Real Truth Behind "Stop and Fisk"

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Any grade-school child could interpret that amendment and realize "stop and frisk" violates it. Despite the current controversy in New York City, the origins of "stop and frisk" go back at least to 1968 and a supreme court case known as TERRY V. OHIO. Regarding that decision:
 The "sole justification" for a frisk, said the Court, is the "protection of the police officer and others nearby." Because of this narrow scope, a frisk must be "reasonably designed to discover guns, knives, clubs, or other hidden instruments for the assault of the police officer." As long as an officer has reasonable suspicion, a stop and frisk is constitutional under the Fourth Amendment. Free Dictionary

OK, even if that explanation sounds rational, when I examine the sheer numbers of these encounters in New York City, I have to ask are there really that many police officers in such constant fear for their safety or is something else entirely going on? 

For example:
In 2012, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 532,911 times
473,644 were totally innocent (89 percent).
284,229 were black (55 percent).
165,140 were Latino (32 percent).
50,366 were white (10 percent).


If there are eight-million people living in New York City, that's approximately one-sixteenth of the population stopped just last year. These numbers are staggering.

Fast forward to August 2013 when Federal Judge, Shira A. Scheindlin ruled on the case in New York that the Police Department resorted to a "policy of indirect racial profiling" as it increased the number of stops in minority communities. That has led to officers’ routinely stopping blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.  The NY Times

But does this policy go far beyond race?

How can I even ask that when Mayor Bloomberg himself remarked on a recent NY radio show, WOR-710 AM, that the reason police officers stop more blacks and Hispanics is because blacks and Hispanics simply commit more street crime?  In his words:
“In that case, incidentally, I think, we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little,” the mayor said. “It’s exactly the reverse of what they’re saying. I don’t know where they went to school, but they certainly didn’t take a math course, or a logic course.” NY Daily News

The math to which Bloomberg is really referring is much simpler. I believe "stop and frisk" is really about a new semi-fascist state in America, one in which there are only two kinds of people: The super rich and those whose life's work involves their complete service and protection.

Students and tourists, though a huge part of NYC, are not factored into this mix because they come and go, but there is a group of entirely disenfranchised people, perhaps the majority of whom are minorities who are directly affected by "stop and frisk" because what this policy does is to enforce a state of high security and insulate the wealthy denizens of New York City from any disturbance to their way of life and their ability to pursue their fortunes and their happiness. Bloomberg says again and again that "stop and frisk" is one reason NYC is the safest big city in America. Security is the key.

But anyone without a job is not secure. Anyone who lives in a high crime neighborhood with drugs and gangs is not secure. Any one without a clearly defined role in the social order is not secure.  That includes artists and others who dress differently, look differently, act differently than the accepted under-class (the servers as opposed to the served) those who generally put up with everything the disenfranchised can't or won't put up with.  No tax is too high. No fee too extreme. No toll on simple and necessary functions, like parking or traveling over bridges or through through tunnels, too much. The serving class just swallows all the abuse and pays and pays and pays.

The disenfranchised, who don't even make it into this "accepted" underclass, have to be intimidated into submission or locked up and taken out of society. They don't submit so easily because they have little to gain by doing so. I would certainly argue that one reason they're disenfranchised in the first place is because of previous decades of racism, but I'm specifically referring to "stop and frisk" as it is currently practiced. The actions of "stop and frisk" keep them on the run leading to hundreds of thousands of arrests. A small amount of marijuana and you're gone. An illegal weapon and you're gone.

Since 9-11 most Americans have willingly given up their freedom for security, but there is a dark side to that equation when you think about who is really served by all this added security and who pays for it: Those investing in or employed by the multi-billion dollar business of "homeland security" with all the related NSA eavesdropping and TSA airport groping, as well as an ever expanding prison-industrial complex, and, of course, the wealthiest people in America all benefit disproportionately from added security; in other words those who have nothing to gain from revolution require this added security even though people who would benefit from dramatic change and reform pay for the security of the wealthy through their tax dollars.  As for those who might challenge the system in any meaningful way, they need to be very careful indeed. The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world as the powerful send a not-to-subtle message to those in jeopardy of becoming statistics: You're either for us or against us, as George W. Bush once quipped. Even if you're within your legal rights, such as in the case of whistle-blowers, you're going to suffer.

In addition to common characteristics of race, the majority of people stopped  during "stop and frisk" are either unemployed or underemployed and they fall outside the clear boundaries of what is acceptable in the city. I find it strange that race is all we seem inclined to focus on. Specifically, in the case of "stop and frisk." Americans really need to get past this because it keeps them in a 1960s mindset and takes attention away from the real issues at hand. Perhaps the powers that be love this distraction--after all, why not keep whites and blacks fighting? Then they won't look at what's really going down.

I can tell you, if you spend any time with younger people, you'll see there is almost no race awareness anymore in America. The under twenty crowd couldn't care less about race. Their attitudes reflect a hopeful future, but we still have these public figures who have made a living exploiting issues of racial discrimination long after laws and attitudes have completely changed, mostly because their livelihood requires such a paradigm. 

Interestingly, there are eerie similarities between "stop and frisk" and Florida's now infamous "stand your ground" law as brought to national attention from the George Zimmerman trial:

"A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred."

Regarding Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin's tragic meeting,  Zimmerman, an American of South American (called Hispanic) and African descent (yes, African descent!) was branded "white" and "racist" for his shooting of Martin. In fact, Zimmerman was investigated by the FBI and the justice department, and they found no evidence of any racial bias in his past history, yet that case was hyped as a racially-motivated murder.  

If this was a murder, it may not have been racially motivated at all, but more about the forces of "security" versus the forces of "disorder."  

Trayvon, a black teenager wearing a hoodie sweatshirt represented a threat to the order of that gated community (even though Trayvon lived there!) because he looked the part, and I don't mean just his skin-color. 

Why would someone be walking around in a gated community anyway? At night? In a hoodie that partially concealed his face? What right did Trayvon have to do that? (Every right according to the United States Constitution.)

But in Zimmerman's mind, Martin must have been connected somehow to the criminals who had been committing burglaries in that community which had a lot of vacant properties simply because he seemed to be wandering about aimlessly, like a lot of people who are stopped in New York City I imagine.  A few horrible decisions later on both Zimmerman's and Martin's part and we have a tragic, senseless death and a court trail that captivated the attention of the nation.

And just to be clear, I'm not discounting all the good fostered throughout the country's long struggle for civil rights by people who's main focus was precisely to point out the racism inherent in American society at the time and, just as importantly, the necessary remedies, but I really think "stop and frisk" is not merely about race. It is so much larger than that, and I simply have no reason to believe this policy won't keep expanding to include anyone (of any race) who doesn't fit the safe profile. It already does. Think of TSA Airport security. Why are you presumed to be a terrorist before being presumed innocent?

The politicians we keep electing, especially those basing their careers and public persona's on being tough on crime/terrorism/insert "evil of choice" here will stand for nothing less than a state of complete control and lock down security. 

Well, this is a sad state of affairs, but one the middle class is not challenging, partly because their power has been usurped in recent years with the flight of good jobs and the destruction of labor unions, and partly because so many are living in a stupefied state, hypnotized by psychiatric drugs, violent entertainment, and unhealthy food.  I recently heard the newest version of the violent video war game "Call of Duty" is the most successful piece of entertainment ever sold. Source

Remember how the people of Boston actually cheered for the cops as they were leaving their city which had been put on lock down during the hunt for the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing? Their freedom to move about and live their everyday lives taken away and they cheered!

These trends are deeply disturbing, but let's not get distracted by race. "Stop and Frisk" isn't about skin color, only the color of money.

Additional Notes:  

Ray Kelly, NYC Police Commissioner, recently went on the NBC Sunday morning news show Meet The Press in which he defended "stop and frisk." Trayvon Martin's mother also spoke out; Ms. Fulton comes a lot closer to the real issues at hand.

Ray Kelly

Sabrina Fulton

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