Data recently released by the New York Police Department indicate that the number of people stopped in streets by police officers has dramatically risen over the first three months of 2012. The NYPD argues that its "Stop, Question, Frisk" policy has been effective in alleviating crime levels in the city, but has also drawn mass criticism from the people of New York, including several elected officials. For instance, City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn stated:
“While the N.Y.P.D. should continue to have the ability to stop and frisk people where there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, I remain convinced that with better monitoring, supervision and accountability we can avoid the corrosive impact of a poorly targeted program. We cannot continue to stop, question and frisk nearly 700,000 New Yorkers in this way without doing harm to the relationship between police officers and the people they are protecting, particularly in communities of color.”
This video illustrates grassroots frustration from diverse New Yorkers:
Rather than ensuring safety, or even the misleading appearance of it, racial profiling apparent in the NYPD's stop & frisk regime strains the relationship with communities and increases distrust of police, which in turns undermines public safety.
While many New Yorkers resent the NYPD's stop & frisk abuses, the Department has evaded any accountability for similar abuses of civil rights. The Associated Press recently won a Pulitzer price for revealing that:
[T]he [NYPD] secretly infiltrated cities and states around the Northeast to spy on students, businesses and houses of worship - based not on any reason to suspect potential crime, but entirely based on the faith of individuals subjected to spying.
Advocates have connected the NYPD's racial profiling in the stop & frisk regime to the religious profiling apparent in its domestic surveillance activities, but the press has largely failed to do so, leading to confused disparities in the attitudes of New Yorkers.
Whether in the context of stops & frisks, or domestic surveillance, stronger monitoring of the NYPD is long overdue. Is the City Council up to the job?