Ever since the New York City Police Department initiated its reviled stop-and-frisk technique, the force’s laughable refrain has been that its officers are not engaging in racial profiling. It may not look like racial profiling to Mayor Michael Bloomberg or NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who oversee stop and frisk, but to the millions of blacks and Latinos harassed by the NYPD over the years it is a blatant campaign against dark skin.
Today, a New York legislator testifying in a class-action suit against stop and frisk confirmed that those suspicious of the program’s racial motivations are correct. Doubling down on an accusation he made in 2011, New York State Senator Eric Adams said on the record that he heard Commissioner Kelly tell then-Governor David Paterson and a room of other lawmakers that stop and frisk targets minorities because “he wanted to instill fear in them that any time they leave their homes they could be targeted by police.”
Adams said he was “amazed” and “shocked” by Kelly’s alleged remarks, adding: “I told him that was illegal.”
He said Kelly responded by asking: “How else are we going to get rid of guns?”
It should be noted that 88 percent of the the people stopped and frisked turn out to be totally innocent, and that many others are guilty only of possessing a small amount of marijuana. But tough talk about guns is how Bloomberg and Kelly have been able to sustain stop and frisk despite near constant protestations.
All that may be over soon, however, as the NYPD continues to struggle against a mounting pile of evidence that stop and frisk is less about stopping gun violence than it is an easy way to bust young male minorities for low-level crimes. Less than two weeks ago, news broke that a Bronx police officer had recorded his superior telling him directly to conduct street stops of “male blacks 14 to 20, 21.” And last year The Nation released a recording in which police conducting a stop and frisk threatened to break a young man’s arm. That young man was found to not be breaking any laws.
[Image via AP]
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Zoë Schlanger is Frontpage Editor at TPM. Zoë was a TPM intern in 2011, and prior to returning here she was editor in chief of NYU Local, the alternative independent student news site at NYU. Zoë has interned at places like the Nation, InsideClimate News, The Rachel Maddow Show and Gothamist. She can be reached at email@example.com.