Friday, May 21, 2010
Alabama cops are amateurs at racial profiling when compared to—New York City’s police
by Larry Geller
It’s probably a popular mythology that the police are there to enforce the law. We’ve seen numerous examples of police lawlessness, from falsely arresting demonstrators and lying about it, to recently killing a seven-year-old girl in her home (and most likely lying about it).
How about this hypothesis: Historically, police have supported the power structure with or without the law on their side. Whether beating up union organizers for the robber barons or capturing escaped slaves and returning them to their owners for the bounty, police have acted both with and in spite of the law. New York City police, no longer returning runaway slaves, are still enforcing power against non-whites in the city.
The New York Civil Liberties Union is working to end long-term racial profiling not in the deep South, but in the South Bronx, and the rest of New York City.
Since 2004, the NYPD has stopped and interrogated people nearly 3 million times, and the names and addresses of those stopped have been entered into the department’s stop-and-frisk database, regardless of whether the person was arrested or detained. Last year, NYPD officers stopped and questioned or frisked more than 575,000 people, the most ever. Nearly nine out of 10 of those stopped and questioned by police last year were neither arrested nor issued a summons, and more than 80 percent were black or Latino.
Those names are used for criminal investigations, and anyone entered into the database has a police record.
Also, some people are stopped numerous times in their own neighborhoods. One of the plaintiffs in the NYCLU case just filed against the city said that he was stopped at least 13 times right near his home.
“What the NYPD is doing is unfair and a violation of my rights,” said plaintiff Clive Lino, a 29-year-old graduate student studying English and special education at Mercy College who works full-time with special needs children at a residential facility for students in crisis.
Lino, a black man and Harlem resident, was stopped at least 13 times by NYPD officers between February 2008 and August 2009. On numerous occasions, he has written to city agencies and officials about his mistreatment by NYPD officers, complaining in one letter that “they make me feel like a criminal or suspect when I haven’t done anything wrong.”
The NYCLU is mounting a two-pronged attack. A bill was to be introduced in the New York State Assembly (their “house” side of the legislature) to block the NYPD from keeping that database. Two days ago the NYCLU filed a class action lawsuit against the city and against several police officers in their individual and official capacities.
Current law requires the NYPD to seal the records of those not convicted of anything, so the lawsuit is necessary.
New York cops are up to three million acts of racial profiling at least, and still counting. Alabama has a way to go to catch up.