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"Furtive Movements"
December 19, 2011 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Young, black, and frisked by the NYPD: a grim rite of passage for the city's black and Latino youths.
posted by hermitosis (242 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Heather MacDonald: You cannot properly analyze police behavior without analyzing crime. Crime is what drives NYPD tactics; it is the basis of everything the department does. And crime, as reported by victims and witnesses, sends police overwhelmingly to minority neighborhoods, because that’s where the vast majority of crime occurs—by minority criminals against minority victims.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:52 AM on December 19, 2011


Gee, I had never heard this before. Shocking.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:01 AM on December 19, 2011


BobbyVan: That Heather MacDonald piece is a year and a half old. Moreover, it does not at all respond to Nicholas Peart's piece adequately.

As Mr Peart states, half of minority detainments happen because the person being detained made what the police call "furtive movements." This is not a reasonable way to fight crime.

Suggesting that people who are minorities need to put up with being targeted exclusively by police isn't just a bit offensive; it's bad crime fighting. It has meant that generations of minorities don't trust the police at all. Can you imagine what damage that distrust has done to society?
posted by koeselitz at 8:04 AM on December 19, 2011 [37 favorites]


One of the officers asked which of the keys they had removed from my pocket opened my apartment door. Then he entered my building and tried to get into my apartment with my key.

That's illegal, no?
posted by mediareport at 8:05 AM on December 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


that’s where the vast majority of crime occurs—by minority criminals against minority victims.

Everyone involved in this knows the difference between a reason and an excuse.
posted by mhoye at 8:06 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


BobbyVan, so the fact that some violent black men exist is a good enough reason to be more suspicious of all black men on an institutional level?
posted by Dysk at 8:06 AM on December 19, 2011


A beautiful and heartbreaking essay. Thank you.

Heather MacDonald

Oh, good grief. In summary: Many people who commit crimes are black, therefore THE POLICE SHOULD STOP THEM ALL BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE IT'S FOR THEIR OWN GOOD WHY DON'T THEY UNDERSTAND?!
posted by davidjmcgee at 8:06 AM on December 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


In Baltimore this happens a lot. Another thing that happens a lot is something called, by the victims, "Driving While Black" or "DWB". Generally happens to folks who are dark-skinned who are driving expensive cars. They are stopped, detained, and the ownership of the vehicle checked against their IDs before they are let go and allowed to resume their personal business.

I know several people who have had important business deals fall through due to this occurrence.
posted by kalessin at 8:07 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's illegal, no?

The law doesn't concern the NYPD because the average victimized black or latino indivudual or family who have their civil rights violated by the NYPD have absolutely no means of reprisal. They can't afford a lawyer, legal aid tends to be bogged down with cases created by the NYPD, and taking on the system pro bono is thankless and more-than-likely doomed.
posted by griphus at 8:07 AM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


"No doubt there is going to be mad ignorant shit in this comment thread."
posted by cashman at 8:08 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is one of the major ongoing civil rights abuses in this country today, and it disgusts me every time I hear about it.
posted by Scientist at 8:08 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I found the "furtive movements" line so telling because... well, if I'd learned by experience to fear this kind of attention, then after a while I'd probably act stealthily too, and perhaps unintentionally wind up looking a little paranoid. So, by using these tactics, the cops perpetuate the kind of behavior that allows them to feel justified in using these tactics.
posted by hermitosis at 8:08 AM on December 19, 2011 [17 favorites]


From Bobby Van's piece:

The fact that blacks, Hispanics, and whites are arrested at the same rate after a stop undercuts, rather than supports, the thesis of racially biased policing, but more on that later.

It really doesn't. It merely demonstrates that racially based policing doesn't produce more criminals. But it's hardly surprising that this sort of lazy, rah rah police, there is no race problem analysis would come from City Journal, published by Manhattan Institute, a conservative, market-based think tank.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:08 AM on December 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


hey guyz, bobbyvan is just quoting to make sure u read that viewpoint cuz we gotta cover BOTH sides ( and put up a front then back down ) -------- it's not like it means it's whut he believes or nuthin OR IS IT
posted by defenestration at 8:09 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


That Heather MacDonald excerpt reads like satire to me.

I don't understand how on the basis of police behavior you can insist that "more crime" happens in minority neighborhoods. You can only really record "crime" if police go looking for it, and if they only go looking for it in minority neighborhoods, guess what your crime stats are going to say?

Furthermore, there's a ton of data that show that rates of drug use, for example, are higher in white and middle class populations than in minority populations, yet the rates of incarceration for drug offenses is way higher in minority populations.

What does that say about policing, crime, and race?
posted by entropone at 8:10 AM on December 19, 2011 [12 favorites]


If it were really about protecting citizens from crime, and not about putting minorities in their places, then a black explaining that he hasn't done anything wrong wouldn't be a problem. Yet, it still is.
posted by cotterpin at 8:10 AM on December 19, 2011


If Heather MacDonald were a poor black kid, she'd be thankful the police stopped her for no reason.
posted by davidjmcgee at 8:11 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Can you imagine what damage that distrust has done to society?

Plausibly, it's increased crime rates in the affected neighborhoods.
posted by flabdablet at 8:13 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


griphus, I get that the police get away with it, I'm just checking that what the cop did in that instance still counts as illegal.
posted by mediareport at 8:14 AM on December 19, 2011


What the stop and frisk policy does is put the NYPD's procedures to the maximum level of invasion that is constitutionally permitted. This keeps it "lawful." And it is; it often falls to the wayside in these conversations, but if cops followed the procedures as required and only acted upon the right levels of suspicion, the program would be okay (IMO).

However, when the policy is right up against the limitations like that, many individual instances of its application will inevitably be over the line. At some point, it seems like the department's aggressive policy, plus its inadequate training, plus the lack of oversight or shits given by supervisors when rank and file commit 4th Amendment violations, plus the incentivization of stop and frisks by requiring UF-250 quotas (the forms filled out for every such encounter) ought to equal constructive knowledge by the department that it is essentially permitting constitutional violations.

That's putting aside policy considerations of whether the damage to community relations outweighs the law enforcement benefit of aggressively stopping people in the first place, of course.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:15 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Worth noting that "City Journal" is the quarterly publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research - a conservative thinktank intimately associated with - and heavily invested in - the Giuliani/Bratton policing model.

BobbyVan's piece is also not very up to date. If you want a more recent Heather Mac Donald article about policing and race, try here. She's really mellowed a lot.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:17 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, this stop and frisk policy... this is done by the same sorts of folks who are known to plant drugs on people.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:18 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I really hate that in posting his incredibly dubious link in the first comment, BobbyVan got to set the parameters for this conversation. Feel free to proceed as if that didn't happen.
posted by hermitosis at 8:19 AM on December 19, 2011 [22 favorites]


That's illegal, no?

He told the officer which key it was. Submission to authority is implied consent whether or not he felt intimidated as long as he wasn't explicitly threatened for that consent.

You'd need to follow that up with loud, clear and repeated statements that you do not consent to a search.
posted by Talez at 8:22 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't see them often, but whenever I notice a stop-and-frisk, especially in my neighborhood, I like to observe. Just as an impartial third party, to make sure no one's rights are violated.

I mean, I'm half-white, half-black, right, so I should be impartial? Even though I look Latino? I'm sure once I explain it to the cops, they'll understand entirely.
posted by Eideteker at 8:23 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Good idea, hermitosis.

This is a really good piece. I like it largely because it isn't bombastic, or politically broad. It doesn't have a bunch of policy recommendations. It just recounts one black man's experience, and does so simply and powerfully. I really appreciate just simply knowing what he and so many others have to go through; because in these discussions, that experience is so often lost.
posted by koeselitz at 8:24 AM on December 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't see them often, but whenever I notice a stop-and-frisk, especially in my neighborhood, I like to observe. Just as an impartial third party, to make sure no one's rights are violated.

Me too! Of course, I'm a white woman of fairly obvious middle-class extraction, so the cops get all flinchy when I stop to watch. I sometimes hesitate because I don't want to humiliate someone by staring at them during a difficult moment, but then there were two occasions where the police were pretty much in the middle of roughing someone up and turned them loose when they saw me.

Okay, let's just assume that POC are - for social/economic reasons - more likely to commit street crime (leave the white collar crime and the war crimes to the rich whities). Even if that's true, if police stops are tearing up the social fabric and just generally fucking with people, doesn't that outweigh quite a lot of crime? How many stopped drug sales outweigh one Oscar Grant, eh?
posted by Frowner at 8:28 AM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Good point, hermitosis.

For some background on why this might happen, it's worth looking at the Village Voice's coverage of the NYPD tapes. Adrian Schoolcraft, who made the recordings, is featured in the second act of this episode of This American Life.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:28 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


This makes me want to join the NYPD. I'd be an exemplary cop except for my habit of stop-and-frisking white people.

I figure I'd last about a week.
posted by whuppy at 8:32 AM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


running order squabble fest: BobbyVan's piece is also not very up to date. If you want a more recent Heather Mac Donald article about policing and race, try here. She's really mellowed a lot.

That's quite misleading. Are you implying that Ms. MacDonald no longer supports "stop and frisk"? She participated in a debate on the subject in October. There's no summary of the debate that I can find off hand, but your linked article on police misconduct during the West Indian parade has nothing at all to do with "stop and frisk".

entropone: I don't understand how on the basis of police behavior you can insist that "more crime" happens in minority neighborhoods. You can only really record "crime" if police go looking for it, and if they only go looking for it in minority neighborhoods, guess what your crime stats are going to say?

Tell that to the more than 4,000 homicide victims in NYC since 2003. Check out this crime map from the New York Times. 4,161 homicides in NYC since 2003. 61% of the victims were black. 27% were hispanic. 8% were white. The racial breakdown of offenders is about the same. Also look at the concentration of homicides in NYC by neighborhood: you'll see a concentration in the Bronx, Upper Manhattan and particular sections of Brooklyn and Queens.

According to this editorial from (gasp!) the Murdoch-owned New York Post, 814 firearms were removed from the streets last year alone from "stop and frisk" searches.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:32 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just as an impartial third party, to make sure no one's rights are violated.

What do you do if they are?
posted by griphus at 8:32 AM on December 19, 2011


BobbyVan, and they're catching a lot of murderers with these stop-and-frisks, right?
posted by Dysk at 8:38 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every time I read an article like this, I'm reminded of the only time I've ever gotten stopped by cops. I was a teenager stomping home after dinner with my parents; we'd gotten in some stupid argument, and I was covered in tears and walking my usual lightspeed pace in a hoodie. We lived in a great neighborhood which in my lifetime has been through race riots, hippies, and expensive gentrification; street crime is a constant problem, and muggings are not uncommon. So anyway, there I was, growling and barreling down the street, and a cop car pulls over and flags me down. Just to make sure that I was okay, and to see if I needed any help or assistance.

Pretty sure if I wasn't a young white lady, that wouldn't have happened. (I virtually never carry ID with me, because it's never once been a problem...)

PS: Dear cops in Mount Pleasant, you have been pretty nice throughout my life, even if you never found our stolen tricycles. I hope this is a common act throughout our precinct, I really do!
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:39 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eideteker and Frowner, you two be careful. It's becoming increasingly clear that many police officers in this country don't give a flying fuck -- they will jack you up unless it's immediately clear that you're someone who is rich and well-connected.

And, as supported by what I've seen in far too many threads here, after you're lying there bloody, tasered, unconscious or even dead, even folks who claim to be "pretty far to the left" will completely swallow the police department's line that you did something "threatening" to the officers that fully justifies the violent response. On a generous day, they'll allow as how it's a tragedy -- but one that you could have avoided if you'd just been properly submissive and non-threatening.

By the way, this rite of passage certainly happens all over the USA. Even here in good ol' liberal Austin, I've been stopped and questioned for Walking While Black in neighborhoods that I lived in. Growing up in Ft Lauderdale, my friends and I quickly learned that you don't have the rights enumerated in any document at the federal, state, or local level; you have whatever rights the nearest law enforcement officer feels like granting you. And, as noted, if you felt otherwise you had absolutely no means for redress.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:39 AM on December 19, 2011 [16 favorites]


I was driving around in San Diego with my Latino nephew near where he works. He pointed at a police car and said "Hey. There's so-and-so." "You know him?" I asked. Yeah, he explains. My nephew works at night and sometimes drives out nearby to a fast food place to get a snack. He says that once a week that cop stops him, questions him and then lets him go. "Its really annoying" my nephew adds, "I mean I only get so much time for a break, and I lose a lot of being stopped by this guy."
"Why does he say he stops you?" I ask.
"Oh. He says there's a lot of crime in this area, so they stop anybody that looks suspicious."
"And you look suspicious?"
"I guess so."
It must be his beard and dark looks.

But that isn't why my nephew doesn't like or trust policemen. For that, go back a few years. He was driving home with a friend from a party when they were pulled over. They were told to get on the ground and were arrested and thrown in jail.

This is my nephew. He's a smart kid and trying to get ahead in the world. I, his uncle, went to Harvard and majored in physics. This is the same nephew who regularly beat me at chess.

The reason they were thrown in jail is that a liquor store had been robbed at gunpoint near where they were driving and my nephew fit the description. They assigned him a public defender. My nephew was 19 years old. I made worried phone calls to his public defender asking her how this could happen to a good kid.

At a preliminary hearing, they showed a tape of the crime. Other than being a Latino and wearing the same color shirt, the guy in the video looked nothing like my nephew. The guy who was robbed said so. Other people in the courtroom said so. The judge agreed. My nephew was released and the whole thing was expunged from his record.

My nephew is much more melancholy than me. Even more introverted. Whereas such a thing would have made me angry and indignant, it has affected him more. He distrusts the system that he is part of. And, after being violently thrown in prison, he has lost a bit of his valuable self-worth.

I'm not sure what war is being fought out there. But this is too high a price. I think thats what this article is trying to say.
posted by vacapinta at 8:39 AM on December 19, 2011 [80 favorites]


BobbyVan, The Weekly World News has more journalistic integrity and conducts more extensive research than any author of a New York Post editorial ever has. That article is as objective to the subject at hand as Teen Beat is on Justin Bieber.
posted by griphus at 8:39 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


(In conjunction with BobbyVan's point, it's worth pointing out that frisks and searches need to be for weapons only, for the cop's self-protection; anything else is illegal. You can't frisk someone for drugs and you can't search them except to get something that you reasonably believe is a weapon after frisking them. It doesn't work that way all the time, obviously.)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


What do you do if they are?

It's truly surprising how even being seen or being photographed or recorded changes cop behavior - that's why they are so desperate to outlaw photography and video.

I mean, in theory I could complain to the City Council, write a letter to the papers, kick up a fuss. That's not really too much if the cops are determined to stand pat - and there won't be any traction if it's just the cops beating up some homeless guy.

I think it's just a psychological trick, mostly - cops are so used to the split consciousness of "this behavior for nice middle class white people, that behavior for homeless brown dudes" that they have trouble balancing the two. And also the sense that if they are seen then they lose at least a little legitimacy with people with at least a little power. Also, if you're a cop you probably have to believe on some level that you are protecting the weak, fighting crime, etc, and suddenly being observed critically by a "respectable" person destabilizes that.

I mean, the danger of the present moment is that the police are attaining so many powers and violence is becoming so normalized that even the little interventions may lose their force - the cops may become so emboldened that they're not afraid to beat down innocents right in front of respectable people. (I don't count protests, because everyone knows that Americans hate hippies, it's okay to beat them because they are just so irritating, etc etc....cops don't lose legitimacy by beating dissidents in this country, alas.)

The truth is that there's not much you can do about police at the immediate/non-systemic level, and the systemic level is pretty much locked up right now.

It's funny, my trump narrative about "the police have too many powers!" is always the stories about friends who were held at gunpoint (and in one instance told "I'll blow your head off") for political reasons. It's scary, it scares me to think about maybe losing them if the cops were hopped up enough. And of course, that's just par for the course for plenty of people of color. I've always been aware of the stop/frisk thing, but somehow didn't really put together the "being held at gunpoint" part.
posted by Frowner at 8:43 AM on December 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


Eideteker: “Just as an impartial third party, to make sure no one's rights are violated.”

griphus: “What do you do if they are?”

I think Eideteker was joking. Maybe he can correct me on that point. The end of his comment made it seem pretty ironical.
posted by koeselitz at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2011


Are you implying that Ms. MacDonald no longer supports "stop and frisk"?

No. I'm lightly satirising your apparent belief that your link was a direct refutation of a piece written in December 2011. I don't actually think she's mellowed a lot - the NYP article I linked to is basically saying the same thing as the City Quarterly, with about the same rhetorical palette. I think this much would be clear to any mammal with more highly-developed political instincts than, say, a Choctawatchee beach mouse.

In fact, Heather Mac Donald is running out essentially the same argument that she developed in her book, "Are Cops Racist? How the War Against the Police Harms Black Americans" - that black New Yorkers commit the vast majority of crime, and therefore the NYPD should be stopping and frisking them, and that, since black people are the most common victims of crime committed by black people, by stopping and frisking black people (or "blacks", as it seems the City Quarterly style guide prefers) the NYPD are in fact showing concern for the black community. And, further, since reporting of crime against black people is underreported by black people, the NYPD are in fact the only people who show concern for the black community.

Therefore, black New Yorkers are the real racists here.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:49 AM on December 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Thank you for those who are willing to spend their time and energy yet again refuting nonsense that only survives because of ignorance. I did it for years and these days I am too tired and kind of bored by it all that I don't feel like ignoring my job, cutting short interactions with friends and family while I do the whole "someone on the internet is wrong" deal. Thanks. Thanks a lot. It isn't going unnoticed.
posted by cashman at 8:58 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


No. I'm lightly satirising your apparent belief that your link was a direct refutation of a piece written in December 2011.

Her November 2010 article provides important context to the debate, the basic terms of which are the same now as they were then.

Therefore, black New Yorkers are the real racists here.

Is satire all you've got?

90% of the murders in NYC are committed by blacks or Hispanics (per the NY Times crime data I linked above). It's quite perverse that a proportionate law enforcement focus on high-crime neighborhoods gets smeared as racist.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:59 AM on December 19, 2011


correction: Her May 2010 article
posted by BobbyVan at 9:04 AM on December 19, 2011


City Journal

Ha. A place I interned had a nice stack of City Journal rags. I read a few. It's the kind of "journal" that has, at most, one or two citations per "article". Lovely cover art though, very art deco if you know what I mean.
posted by fuq at 9:10 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


(In conjunction with BobbyVan's point, it's worth pointing out that frisks and searches need to be for weapons only, for the cop's self-protection; anything else is illegal.

814 firearms were removed from the streets last year alone from "stop and frisk" searches.

From the article: "last year, the N.Y.P.D. recorded more than 600,000 stops"

Am I understanding right? 600,000 stops, 814 firearms. About 1.4 firearms in every 1000 stops that are specifically to look for weapons. Am I confused, or is that fucked up?
posted by howfar at 9:13 AM on December 19, 2011 [18 favorites]


90% of the murders in NYC are committed by blacks or Hispanics (per the NY Times crime data I linked above). It's quite perverse that a proportionate law enforcement focus on high-crime neighborhoods gets smeared as racist.

Well, color me convinced! It seems that the cops aren't stopping *enough* people of color - if they stopped and frisked every black and latino person between the ages of 8 and 80, crime would totally disappear. I mean, never mind that the Constitution gets violated to hell and back, because stopping crime is more important than law enforcement following the Constitution. Secure in their person? Bah. Reasonable suspicion? Humbug. Creating fear, distrust, and resentment in the communities you're protecting? Priceless!
posted by rtha at 9:15 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Reasonable suspicion?

You totally forgot the part where they aren't white.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:28 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm so glad I'm a brown skinned man born in India. Off to the airport I go.
posted by Fizz at 9:28 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


90% of the murders in NYC are committed by blacks or Hispanics (per the NY Times crime data I linked above). It's quite perverse that a proportionate law enforcement focus on high-crime neighborhoods gets smeared as racist.

I think the disagreement is not about who commits crimes but about whether or not the stop-and-frisk tactic is effective and impartially employed. It could be the case that most murders are committed by black people and that stop-and-frisks are used disproportionately with arbitrarily detained black people. The implication that if black people commit a majority of crimes then it's justifiable to randomly interrogate and physically search black people who have done nothing wrong is problematic and perhaps specious, is the point; the deeper implication seems to be that it's reasonable to treat dark-skinned people differently than white people, and that's pretty nakedly racist and unjust. Holding a loosely-defined group like dark-skinned people jointly responsible for what some people who are in that group do is just unconscionable, especially if you stop to think even for a moment about how institutional injustices perpetrated against minorities have played out through history.
posted by clockzero at 9:29 AM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


BobbyVan: “90% of the murders in NYC are committed by blacks or Hispanics (per the NY Times crime data I linked above). It's quite perverse that a proportionate law enforcement focus on high-crime neighborhoods gets smeared as racist.”

This is an old argument that's gone back and forth for generations.

But it seems to me there are larger implications that stretch beyond proportionate or disproportionate focus on crime. Crime isn't caused directly by what neighborhood you're from or who your parents are. If it were, fighting it would be easy. Unfortunately, crime has a lot of different causes. Poverty is one. I believe one major contributing factor is a very broad culture of disrespect for law enforcement and law and order in general. And that culture is actually understandable; as the Mr Peart pointed out in the main link above, it's hard for even a black or brown person who's never been involved with crime of any kind and who started out really respecting and admiring the police not to finally come to a pretty negative view of the institution as a whole.

The current enforcement regime is the reason for this. Is it really so outlandish to say, then, that the current law enforcement regime contributes to crime? No matter whether you think it's proportionate or not, it certainly isn't improving the status of the police department among people in the neighborhoods that actually most need them.
posted by koeselitz at 9:29 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


fucking creeping fascism all over the fucking place
posted by growabrain at 9:31 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


90% of the murders in NYC are committed by blacks or Hispanics

That may be true, but I think you're making a basic error of statistical inference. Black and hispanic people may commit a disproportionate number of violent crimes in NYC, but that doesn't mean that a random black or hispanic person is very likely to be a violent criminal.

Nor do abstract statistical arguments in any way address the point made in the FPP article. Here's a young guy who is perfectly law-abiding, who is just going about his daily life in exactly the way you or I would do, and who finds himself not just being stopped and questioned by the police over and over again, but treated as a criminal who just happens to have had the luck to ditch whatever incriminating evidence he *must* have been carrying.

Surely you can agree that regardless of the frequency of black-on-black crime vs. white-on-black or white-on-white, something has gone horribly awry when a young, well-meaning man has this kind of profoundly alienating experience again and again and again?

I'm sure the reasons for the high crime rate in black neighborhoods in US cities are complex and multifaceted, but one significant portion of them must be the erosion of social solidarity--the inculcation of the belief that one is an outsider to normal social values--caused by this constant barrage of police suspicion, hostility and disrespect. You keep telling someone that they're a criminal and eventually they're going to believe you.
posted by yoink at 9:32 AM on December 19, 2011 [16 favorites]


"90% of the murders in NYC are committed by blacks or Hispanics (per the NY Times crime data I linked above). It's quite perverse that a proportionate law enforcement focus on high-crime neighborhoods gets smeared as racist."

BobbyVan, you have to be extremely cautious using statistics like that. There are an incredible number of non-trivial and non-obvious factors to resolve for in comparing crime rates (well rates of anything for that matter) and race. A greater number of crimes correlated by race doesn't mean a greater rate of crime caused by race.

Take the relationship between income and crime, and income and race, for example. There are reams of books and mountains of data on the subject, and oddly, no certain conclusions. Generally speaking though, you'll find that race isn't as large a factor in crime rates after resolving for income. In other words, white people are as likely to commit crimes as anyone else. Given the proportion of whites to others, you'd think it would follow that the majority of people in the justice system (jail, prison, probation, parole) would be proportionate. It isn't.

You would be foolish to think that there is no significant racism in police. Even black and latino cops treat blacks and latinos differently than they treat whites. Studies that have resolved for income and other socioeconomic factors show a huge inexplicable gap in law enforcement practice and judicial system practice - well, inexplicable unless you throw in race. Law enforcement practices are frequently self fulfilling as well. Stop more people, and you'll "find" more crimes. I know cops who laughingly refer to civilians as "violators". It's presumed they'll find something wrong. It's not that they are wrong - it's that they are right. The difference is, who is it they are stopping and searching?

The thing about that is, once you factor in race, it's self fulfilling. Hassle all the hispanic kids all the time, and eventually you'll have a large number of them in the system. Once that happens, there are a number of additional crimes they can commit that wouldn't be a crime at all committed by another person. Drunk in public? Now you have alcohol terms on your probation, and if you drink at home, in your own living room, not bothering a soul, you are committing a crime - and probation officers literally go and visit people's homes, especially on holidays, in order to catch them doing exactly that.

It's very difficult to convince cops and others that their racism is a fundamental problem. They see ethnic people committing crimes all the time. It's obvious to them, that ethnics are criminals. In a sense, it's true - ethnics are criminals - what is missing is the fact that so is everybody else. However, whites are far less likely to get stopped and interrogated by the police. Subsequently, the data reflect that indeed, ethnics are criminals, and whites are not.

That's why you need to be careful quoting the data. It's the result of a biased set.
posted by Xoebe at 9:36 AM on December 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


Is satire all you've got?


This is not satire. It is attentive reading. This is not generally considered a bad thing around here, I think - although I guess the fact that your refutation was posted within eight minutes of the FPP going up suggests that we may differ on that.

To quote Heather Mac Donald:
The mentality evidenced in the posts [to a Police Facebook group] is going to be hard to dislodge so long as two facts hold true: the extreme racial disparities in crime rates and the impression officers often have that they are the only ones who care about the black victims of black crime.
...
It only adds to officers’ frustration when some residents of poor neighborhoods seem to deliberately thwart their efforts to get criminals off the street — whether by blocking an officer’s hot pursuit of a perp or by refusing to provide evidence that would solve a crime.
...
By all means, we should condemn police behavior that deviates from that norm of equal treatment. But the unfinished business in improving police-community relations is to lower the black crime rate. Doing so requires the same community stigma against violent behavior as is regularly applied against perceived police misbehavior.
If that's too much, the standfirst of the piece is Does anyone besides the cops care about black victims of crime?

Reading things is useful - it means, for example, that you don't get the date of your quickfire-Googled refutation six months out when defending it.

Moving on, the response of the Philadephia PD to protests about stop and frisk is interesting. They've agreed to provide court oversight of their stop-and-frisk records - thus drawing the sting from any accusations of a lack of transparency. Problems or doubts might remain around the information going in, but it certainly helps to address concerns...
"We do not want anyone in this city to feel in any way, shape, or form that their rights are being trampled on," Nutter said. "Every Philadelphian, every American, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect."
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:36 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, uh, is it just me or has everyone in the major cities forgotten how absolutely brutal white gangsters were and/or currently are? I know it messes with the narrarative but yeesh, its like Scarface Al never existed for these people.

Also, 814 firearms sounds like a lot. Two problems though, the first as has been addressed, is that 1.4 firearms/1000 stops is stupid low. That may actually be bordering on random chance. Seriously, if I bothered to look up total gun ownership per capita in NYC, would it be close to 1.4?

Second problem: firearm. They didn't say something unambiguous like 'gun', they said firearm. Out of the 814 firearms confiscated, how many are guns and how many are not guns?
posted by Slackermagee at 9:37 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never heard of anything but a gun referred to as a "firearm" and am curious about what else might fit that category; are you talking about zip guns? potato cannons?
posted by contraption at 9:47 AM on December 19, 2011


Racial gap found in traffic stops in Milwaukee: "A black Milwaukee driver is seven times as likely to be stopped by city police as a white resident driver... Police also searched black drivers at twice the rate of whites, but those searches didn't lead to higher rates of seized weapons, drugs or stolen property.... " [emphasis mine]
posted by desjardins at 9:51 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately, crime has a lot of different causes. Poverty is one.

If it is, it's become increasingly less significant, as violent crime has dropped while poverty has increased.

Yoink, you make an excellent point here: I'm sure the reasons for the high crime rate in black neighborhoods in US cities are complex and multifaceted, but one significant portion of them must be the erosion of social solidarity--the inculcation of the belief that one is an outsider to normal social values...

I don't agree that it's police harassment alone, or even primarily, that contributes to that erosion, but I'll agree it's a factor. Instead, I'd point to the decline of the black family, a culture of dependence on economic assistance and the failure of our educational institutions as stronger contributors to this "erosion of social solidarity."

The constitutional problems with "stop and frisk" are significant, and Mayor Michael Nutter may be onto something when he calls for increased judicial oversight of the program. The NYPD will probably find that, even if its "stop and frisk" program is focused on neighborhoods, and race is an incidental factor to these stops, it will benefit from more oversight and transparency.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:52 AM on December 19, 2011


90% of the murders in NYC are committed by blacks or Hispanics (per the NY Times crime data I linked above). It's quite perverse that a proportionate law enforcement focus on high-crime neighborhoods gets smeared as racist.

Seems to me that the question one should ask is: how many of these murderers are found by stop-and-frisk tactics? I'm guessing that the majority of people being harassed repeatedly by cops are not murderers, otherwise they'd be arrested.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:55 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


"90% of the murders in NYC are committed by blacks or Hispanics"

And 99% of the financial fraud that bankrupted the country for the next five generations was committed by white men over 30. Do you support a nationwide plan wherein every white male over 30 has his computer and phone seized and his house ransacked and searched in order to look for evidence of fiduciary malfeasance?

Why or why not?
posted by a_girl_irl at 9:58 AM on December 19, 2011 [39 favorites]


Am I understanding right? 600,000 stops, 814 firearms. About 1.4 firearms in every 1000 stops that are specifically to look for weapons. Am I confused, or is that fucked up?


Two problems with this analysis.

First, they're not stops to look for guns. Frisks are supposed to be conducted in the course of a stop, when an officer has reasonable suspicion that the person is armed. The stop itself could be conducted on suspicion of any crime, but the frisk is for a weapon. Even then, the frisk is technically not in order to recover a weapon, but to ensure the cop's safety when s/he has reason to fear it's compromised; if a weapon is recovered, that is sort of tangential (though it shows the fear was justified). So the number of weapons recovered doesn't really say anything about the legitimacy of the frisk, nor does it necessarily have to do with the reason for the stop in the first place.

Two, it's not just guns that count. If you frisk someone and find a knife, for instance, that is also fulfilling the legitimate purpose of the frisk. And those aren't counted in that 814 number.

Again, this is how it is supposed to work. I am not denying that cops stop, frisk, and search people on inadequate suspicion.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 10:03 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


contraption: I think New York law identifies weapons covered by its firearms code, somewhat recursively, as guns, pistols, rifles, firing pieces or "other firearms". So, pretty much anything with a barrel, an explosive charge and a projectile, I think, would be covered - although I'd say the vast majority of firearms found by the NYPD would also also be describable as guns, although some would be converted "firing pieces".
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:03 AM on December 19, 2011


"Inadequate" suspicion implies they have reason to suspect the individual they're searching for reasons outside of the demographics of their race. The stop itself is, frequently, conducted on the basis that this is a person of color and people of color commit violent crimes more often than white people ergo this person of color is probably going to commit a violent crime so we should stop and search them.
posted by griphus at 10:06 AM on December 19, 2011


BobbyVan's argument, such as it is, would mean since it's usually white middle aged men who are pedophiles, the police is justified in stopping and searching white middle aged men and their laptops on no grounds whatsoever other than that they are white and middle aged men.

Anybody seriously suggesting that?
posted by MartinWisse at 10:07 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


me: “Unfortunately, crime has a lot of different causes. Poverty is one.”

BobbyVan: “If it is, it's become increasingly less significant, as violent crime has dropped while poverty has increased.”

Well, you plucked out the bit of my comment that had the least to do with my point. But – yes, I know that violent crime has dropped while poverty has increased. But those are nationwide trends. Are you really suggesting that high-poverty neighborhoods in New York City – or even any other city – encounter the same amount of crime as low-poverty neighborhoods? It's hard to say poverty isn't a contributing factor here.

What's more, there's an implicit contradiction in your reasoning in response to yoink's point. You mention "a culture of dependence on economic assistance" – yet you admit that poverty has increased. Given just how much poverty has increased, it's pretty obvious that at this point the efficacy of economic assistance is at a lower ebb than at any time in the last three decades. Mostly, people are just poor; and no amount of "economic assistance" can change that. I find it a little patronizing that you talk about "the collapse of the black family," but sidestepping that, it's pretty clear that your implicit point here – a culture of irresponsibility which is caused by being given everything for free and not working for it – obviously doesn't hold. The poor simply aren't getting what they need. It doesn't matter whether it's free or not. And that poverty, combined with the paranoia that comes with be targeted by police (whether that's right or wrong in the larger sense) is a major contributor to crime.
posted by koeselitz at 10:08 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ugh, so glad I could provide an opportunity for BobbyVan to take all comers.
posted by hermitosis at 10:13 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


After reading the thread, I see that the (white) Milwaukee police chief's rationalization is similar to Heather Mac Donald's:
"I kind of think it's important that a black male in Milwaukee is 14 times as likely to be the victim of a murder than anybody else. We can talk all we want about these arcane formulas the Journal Sentinel comes up to shoehorn their previous position against the Milwaukee Police Department and justify it. The bottom line is, we're the institution being asked by the communities afflicted with high crime rates to do something about it."

Flynn said that the communities his officers patrol are primarily African-American.

"In Milwaukee, those communities are primarily populated by people of color, and they're demanding that their police department get busy, mix it up on the streets with those guys who are robbing them, raping them, shooting them and breaking into their houses. That's what we're doing."
Somehow I doubt the residents meant for the police to stop and search all the young black males in the neighborhood.
posted by desjardins at 10:18 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Combining the original post's article with the article from City Journal makes the problem clear. Generally NY police don't have a problem telling the difference between "likely criminal" and "unlikely criminal" when a person is white, but they have trouble when the person is black or latino.

First steps to remedy this could include: 1) specific training with this skill for police who will interact with black and latino people, 2) more opportunities for these police to interact with "unlikely criminal" black and latino people, and 3) increasing the number of police who come from the black and latino communities where this is causing a problem.

[Even I'm not sure if I'm being sarcastic or not.]
posted by benito.strauss at 10:26 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's illegal, no?
If they had found evidence of a crime, they wouldn't be able to use it in court (no warrant). However, ironically if you are totally innocent of any crime, then there is no penalty for the police entering your house illegally.
Plausibly, it's increased crime rates in the affected neighborhoods.
Sure, is that guy going to want to call the cops and deal with them for any reason?
90% of the murders in NYC are committed by blacks or Hispanics (per the NY Times crime data I linked above). It's quite perverse that a proportionate racist law enforcement focus on high-crime neighborhoods black people gets smeared as racist.
FTFY.

---

The other interesting thing about this is that it shows how much the war on drugs is really an excuse for police to harass minorities. It's probably not a coincidence that the "War on Drugs" started right after the success of the civil rights movement.
Meanwhile, a white officer put me in the back of the police car. I was still handcuffed. The officer asked if I had any marijuana, and I said no. He removed and searched my shoes and patted down my socks.
Now, marijuana in NYC is supposed to be decriminalized. But what happens is that the police go through people's stuff looking for "guns" and when they find the marijuana they arrest them for "Open Display"
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Blacks and Latinos make up 86% of marijuana arrests in New York City, despite whites use of the drug at a higher rate.
I don't agree that it's police harassment alone, or even primarily, that contributes to that erosion
Because you're an idiot?


-----
"In Milwaukee, those communities are primarily populated by people of color, and they're demanding that their police department get busy, mix it up on the streets with those guys who are robbing them, raping them, shooting them and breaking into their houses. That's what we're doing."
Except the study found that the racial disparity was even higher in communities with fewer black people.
posted by delmoi at 10:28 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


What is it with all this fishing of wallets out of back pockets? Where I live, I can't get a cop to touch my wallet, much less go fishing for it. He always want me to take my ID out and hand it to him. Says he's not allowed to handle the wallet.
Maybe things are different in LA than in New York.
Or maybe I'm a middle-aged white woman and not teen-aged black kid.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:34 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


delmoi: A "FTFY" and "because you're an idiot?" in the space of a single comment is a dickish way of making your point.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:42 AM on December 19, 2011


As long as the dumb shits who work in law enforcement continue use "common sense" solutions and fight to be held to a lower standard in general, I suspect this and various other abuses will go on and on. Cops have no honor -- a code, maybe, but no honor.
posted by smidgen at 10:48 AM on December 19, 2011


First steps to remedy this could include: 1) specific training with this skill for police who will interact with black and latino people, 2) more opportunities for these police to interact with "unlikely criminal" black and latino people, and 3) increasing the number of police who come from the black and latino communities where this is causing a problem.
IMO this is in fact likely the most efffective strategy to control criminality among the police population (well, okay, second-most: most effective is requiring this sort of training, and also that all police to wear body cameras).

The sick thing is, police unions will resist training just as vehemently as they resist body cameras. Consider this response from the Seattle police union to the race and social justice training there. Apparently, if you're a cop, training to improve the outcome of interactions between police and citizens from minority groups is socialist indoctrination.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:50 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Depressing: the original article.

More depressing: the obligatory "them Blacks are the real racists because they're all criminals" troll (and getting his feelings hurt because those who talk racist crap are seen as racist).

Most depressing: Seeing the same sort of discussion happening over six months when a previous walking while Black link was posted here.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:50 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


What's more, there's an implicit contradiction in your reasoning in response to yoink's point. You mention "a culture of dependence on economic assistance" – yet you admit that poverty has increased. Given just how much poverty has increased, it's pretty obvious that at this point the efficacy of economic assistance is at a lower ebb than at any time in the last three decades. Mostly, people are just poor; and no amount of "economic assistance" can change that.

I'm not sure I'm seeing the "implicit contradiction" here. I'm not saying that it's poverty per se that turns people to crime; rather, I'd argue that it's the erosion of "social solidarity" that occurs when a class of citizens becomes economically dependent on another class of citizens.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:02 AM on December 19, 2011


I'd argue that it's the erosion of "social solidarity" that occurs when a class of citizens becomes economically dependent on another class of citizens.

So, like, factory owners.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:03 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying that it's poverty per se that turns people to crime; rather, I'd argue that it's the erosion of "social solidarity" that occurs when a class of citizens becomes economically dependent on another class of citizens.

Yes, it is terrible that the upper class has become economically dependent on the working class they have colluded to exploit.
posted by griphus at 11:06 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, like, factory owners.

I'd say that factory owners are involved in more of a bilateral relationship where there are mutual benefits. They provide capital investments (creating jobs and opportunities), and the workers, by and large, benefit.

I see where this is going now...
posted by BobbyVan at 11:08 AM on December 19, 2011


According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Blacks and Latinos make up 86% of marijuana arrests in New York City, despite whites use of the drug at a higher rate.
I don't agree that it's police harassment alone, or even primarily, that contributes to that erosion


Because you're an idiot?

No, because the users are idiots. The great majority of open use I see in my neighborhood (as well as around NYC) are young Black and Latino males. I rarely see anybody of another gender, race, or age group openly using on the street. So it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that the abundance of arrests would be represented by the that demo.
posted by borges at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2011


This crap is not limited to the youth. A friend of mine is a distinguished retired corporate lawyer. He still dresses the part every day in expensive suits etc. He is well into his 60s. He is black and he still gets hassled by the cops and is more afraid of them then of the street criminals in NYC.
posted by caddis at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Except the study found that the racial disparity was even higher in communities with fewer black people.

Yeah, and that's widely known here. There's a suburb called Whitefish Bay that's nicknamed "White Folks Bay" and I've heard numerous reports of people being stopped for DWB. Unfortunately, with the degree of black/white segregation we have here (worst in the country), there's a good chance that a black person driving through a white neighborhood does not actually live there, and vice versa (not that that's a reason to stop them).
posted by desjardins at 11:31 AM on December 19, 2011


All I can think of is "Papiere bitte, schnell, schnell". And for the same reasons.
posted by mikelieman at 11:43 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ugh, so glad I could provide an opportunity for BobbyVan to take all comers.

Why post an article about a controversial political issue if you don't want to hear from anyone who might disagree with the viewpoint in the article? Thanks for sharing, but I hope we can use the comments section to do more than harumph in solidarity with the author.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:49 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Related:

NYPD stopping and frisking record number: NYCLU
posted by borges at 11:57 AM on December 19, 2011


"I see where this is going now...
posted by BobbyVan 44 minutes ago"

I also see exactly where this is going - you're cherrypicking ad hom comments to complain about so you can conveniently ignore legitimate questions directed specifically to you about appropriate uses of police resources. Are you going to respond to my question or are you going to focus on someone else saying "FTFY"?

It's a real question, by the way. We know, for a fact, that the overwhelming majority of large-scale fraud has been done by white men over thirty. Lower Manhattan has gangs of these savage animals, operating with impunity, right under the NYPD's nose. These criminal New York gangs are stealing from grandmas and pensions and Real Americans. So we should start detaining white men in Lower Manhattan, going through their phones and laptops and tablets as well as entering their apartments and searching the premises for evidence of criminal activity.

You are about as likely to find a murderer by stopping and searching random black men in Harlem as you are to find a white-collar criminal by stopping and searching random white men in the Financial District. I would argue that because fraud is more common than murder, and much less investigated, that you would find MORE criminals among the white gangs of Manhattan.

Are you okay with this?
posted by a_girl_irl at 12:09 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Stopping and frisking to identify perpetrators of fraud? You really can't be serious.
posted by borges at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2011


I'm not ignoring you a_girl_irl, I just think your question is more rhetorical than serious. At least I hope it is.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:29 PM on December 19, 2011


The original question was "Do you support a nationwide plan wherein every white male over 30 has his computer and phone seized and his house ransacked and searched in order to look for evidence of fiduciary malfeasance?"
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:30 PM on December 19, 2011


I think it's a valid question. If the FBI turned up more than 1.4 accounts of fraud for every 1,000 computers seized, that would be worth it, right?
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:31 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


First, they're not stops to look for guns.

But I thought the 814 figure was being bandied about as justifying the searches. I guess it can't have been, if that's not why they're being carried out. The more general point stands really, doesn't it? The powers of the police are being applied in a discriminatory fashion, and even their own data doesn't suggest that this application produces results better than chance*. On the face of it, this sounds indefensible.

*although I will stand corrected by any statistical analysis which shows that I'm wrong.
posted by howfar at 12:34 PM on December 19, 2011


hermitosis: “Ugh, so glad I could provide an opportunity for BobbyVan to take all comers.”

I may not like BobbyVan's opinions or intractability, but this is important stuff. It needs to be talked about.
posted by koeselitz at 12:37 PM on December 19, 2011


I'd argue that it's the erosion of "social solidarity" that occurs when a class of citizens becomes economically dependent on another class of citizens

I'd argue that it's your inability to look at social problems through any lens but race that's contributing to the eroding "social solidarity", with the way that it fragments society into us vs. them using the divisions that people find the need to continually redraw

92% of NYC murders were committed by men. Probably the vast majority were committed by the poor. I don't expect as a poor man to be harassed by law enforcement as the part of some broad demographic categories to which I belong

You need to start seeing how the way you choose to view society is in fact creating such a society, and making all of us worse off in the process
posted by crayz at 12:43 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I may not like BobbyVan's opinions or intractability, but this is important stuff. It needs to be talked about.

Sure, but BV clearly came here to talk exclusively about his own article and his own beliefs. Not once in all his comments has he responded to anything in the original article, to the point where I have to wonder whether he even read it.

I'm glad others find the conversation worthwhile, but it's total threadjacking and rather dickish behavior IMO.
posted by hermitosis at 12:49 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Do you support a nationwide plan wherein every white male over 30 has his computer and phone seized and his house ransacked and searched in order to look for evidence of fiduciary malfeasance?"

No.

First, "stop and frisk" does not involve seizure of private property or home invasions. These are not analogous situations.

Second, I already acknowledged that there are constitutional issues with "stop and frisk". I think it ought to be more focused, and subject to more oversight. But I don't think it's necessarily racist - cops are going to focus their resources on the areas with higher rates of violent crime, and it's a fact that those areas are disproportionately populated by blacks and Hispanics. If that fact disturbs you, we can shift the terms of the debate to social policy if you like... but in the meantime, the police have a responsibility to protect the public, and that means that you'll probably find more cops walking the beat in Brownsville than you will on Lenox Hill.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:50 PM on December 19, 2011


First, "stop and frisk" does not involve seizure of private property or home invasions.

The article linked in the post describes both seizure of private property and entering a home without consent.
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:59 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


BobbyVan: “... but in the meantime, the police have a responsibility to protect the public, and that means that you'll probably find more cops walking the beat in Brownsville than you will on Lenox Hill.”

But you don't – isn't that the problem? You tend to find police officers walking the beat more often in upscale neighborhoods. Is there data on this somewhere? I know it's been the case in all the cities I've lived in.
posted by koeselitz at 1:01 PM on December 19, 2011


"First, "stop and frisk" does not involve seizure of private property or home invasions. These are not analogous situations."

Hermitosis was right; you did not read the link and you just jumped in immediately to ruin the thread with unsourced nonsense. Thanks for confirming my suspicions. From the article:

"Last May, I was outside my apartment building on my way to the store when two police officers jumped out of an unmarked car and told me to stop and put my hands up against the wall. I complied. Without my permission, they removed my cellphone from my hand, and one of the officers reached into my pockets, and removed my wallet and keys. He looked through my wallet, then handcuffed me. The officers wanted to know if I had just come out of a particular building. No, I told them, I lived next door.

One of the officers asked which of the keys they had removed from my pocket opened my apartment door. Then he entered my building and tried to get into my apartment with my key. My 18-year-old sister was inside with two of our younger siblings; later she told me she had no idea why the police were trying to get into our apartment and was terrified. She tried to call me, but because they had confiscated my phone, I couldn’t answer.

Meanwhile, a white officer put me in the back of the police car. I was still handcuffed.
The officer asked if I had any marijuana, and I said no. He removed and searched my shoes and patted down my socks. I asked why they were searching me, and he told me someone in my building complained that a person they believed fit my description had been ringing their bell. After the other officer returned from inside my apartment building, they opened the door to the police car, told me to get out, removed the handcuffs and simply drove off. I was deeply shaken."

I apologize to hermitosis for responding to someone who is obviously participating in bad faith.
posted by a_girl_irl at 1:01 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I must have missed the part where the cop actually went into the author's apartment. I thought he was just checking to make sure the key fit in the lock to confirm his story. I also missed the part where they kept his phone and wallet, and didn't return that to him at the end of the frisk, per procedure.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:13 PM on December 19, 2011


I must have missed the part where the cop actually went into the author's apartment. I thought he was just checking to make sure the key fit in the lock to confirm his story. I also missed the part where they kept his phone and wallet, and didn't return that to him at the end of the frisk, per procedure.

I must have missed the part whether either of those things would ever happen to a well-dressed white person in Manhattan.
posted by blucevalo at 1:17 PM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you moved those goalposts any farther the Jets might actually play in NYC again
posted by a_girl_irl at 1:17 PM on December 19, 2011 [14 favorites]


You read it here, if the police don't rob you and trespass in your home you need to stop whining.
posted by howfar at 1:22 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't agree that it's police harassment alone, or even primarily, that contributes to that erosion, but I'll agree it's a factor. Instead, I'd point to the decline of the black family, a culture of dependence on economic assistance and the failure of our educational institutions as stronger contributors to this "erosion of social solidarity."
Right, because all black people are on welfare. Why are people taking this racist seriously?
posted by delmoi at 1:37 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Right, because all black people are on welfare. Why are people taking this racist seriously?

delmoi, that's a pretty serious charge, but it's seriously misdirected. It's a fact that 90% of black children in the US will be on food stamps at some point in their lives.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:44 PM on December 19, 2011


The social incohesion is primarily caused by the violence and humiliation of 'frisking'. Let's take a look at that. Pretend you are the victim of this practice. (1) The police force you to stop. At any given time, you have things going on in your life. You may be taking a leisurely saunter down the road; you may be running to catch a plane. There is some bell curve of consequences to interference in your plans. The police have no interest in this, and any emotional response from you will be taken by them as confirmatory 'evidence' that their stopping of you was right. To put this another way, police interpret anger against themselves, as criminality against the state. Your self-determination has been callously violated.

(2) They address you with profound disrespect. To some extent this may be the fault of Hollywood and HBO but there seems to be a cultural expectation that American police will refer to the public as "motherfucker" or some similarly degrading epithet.

(3) Having stopped you, there is a high probability of them forcing you to assume some humiliating physical position of submission. Shrieks of "On the ground!" are, like being called "motherfucker", stereotypically associated with American police behavior. They might put restraints on you, they might physically assault you in order to force you into that position or to force the restraints onto you. Your actual capacity to harm them is largely irrelevant and keeping you from doing so is clearly snd obviously beside the point of the exercise.

(4) They will violate your personal privacy by going through your belongings. Again this is done in an attitude of contempt and disgust.

(5) Their actions occur in the sight of others, emphasising to those others firstly that you their victim can be treated in this manner, and secondly that they, the others, being little different from you, might also be treated in this way.

(6) They assiduously look for violations of whatever laws they can think of; they are hunting reasons to do you harm. Much as I detest Ayn Rand and all her works have wrought, she was correct in this: Criminalize everything, and everyone becomes a criminal. One of the most important points to note in this part of the process is that they can create "evidence" at this point; they can plant drugs or weapons on you. There is nothing you can do at this point to prevent that.

(7) Having found nothing, and chosen to plant nothing, they "let you go". You have no recourse against any of their actions. You know that they, as American police, are effectively beyond the reach of law.

Whatever group were targetted as victims of this treatment, be it black males, white females, Asian stockbrokers, hippies, academics or priests, would fairly quickly develop a culture of resentment, even hatred, for the police and accordingly for the law that they routinely degrade by so odiously mispresenting it. While the racist targetting is a major problem, it is the treatment of those targetted that causes them to engage in more crime.

BobbyVan is arguing a position within the question of chicken and egg. He is not wrong that black males commit more and more serious crime. Where he is wrong is his apparent assumption that this is a problem unique to black males, that there is something special about black males that inherently makes them more prone to crime. The factor is not inherent, it is external. Police maltreatment of black males increases the black male crime rate.

What can be done about it? Were I in charge of the NYPD I would bring in two easy changes. Firstly, ubiquitious lifelogging. Whatever a cop does while on duty is public record. If a cop wants to take a piss or make a personal phone call, fair enough to turn it off for those ten minutes, but he/she is not a cop for those ten minutes and unrecorded actions are not police actions. Secondly, respectful manner. As noted above, the problem with the frisking is that it might as well have been designed from the beginning to induce hate, fear, and trauma in the victims of it. Give up stop-and-search entirely, it causes far more harm than it could possibly do good. Whenever the police interact with the public they must be scrupulously polite, never violent except in direct and pressing self-defense or defense of another. The image of American police officer as violent, brutal thug must go. Recruiting and training must reflect that ideal.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:45 PM on December 19, 2011 [17 favorites]


Police maltreatment of black males increases the black male crime rate.

I see your logical train of thought here, but I'm wondering if there is any social science that backs that up?
posted by BobbyVan at 1:50 PM on December 19, 2011


Remember when we talked about the linked article, which is really pretty good?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:52 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


is his apparent assumption that this is a problem unique to black males, that there is something special about black males that inherently makes them more prone to crime

You know, I think BobbyVan is completely wrong on this issue (and I think your your post, aeschenkarnos is generally excellent), but that is not remotely the case he's arguing. In fact, if that were his position it would make his argument utterly illogical: far from railing against the effects of a "culture of dependency" he'd be insisting that black males need a special "culture of dependency" because they are inherently incapable of normal civilized conduct.

Charging your opponent with the crudest forms of racism (as several have done in this thread) because you don't care to engage with their political viewpoint is hardly helpful. Nor does it seem like a sterling example of arguing in "good faith."
posted by yoink at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Charging your opponent with the crudest forms of racism (as several have done in this thread) because you don't care to engage with their political viewpoint is hardly helpful.

At what point does "they support a racist political viewpoint" not mean "they're a racist?"
posted by maxwelton at 2:13 PM on December 19, 2011


Tautology does not an argument make.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:14 PM on December 19, 2011


BobbyVan, I'm reading your comments, but I'm not seeing how they are responsive to the actual article.

It's quite perverse that a proportionate law enforcement focus on high-crime neighborhoods

The author mentions being stopped on the meridian of Broadway and 96th St. This is not in the middle of Bushwick, it's in the middle of the 24th Precinct, one of the safer neighborhoods in the city. But let's suppose that the Terry stops take place mostly in high-crime neighborhoods. OK, fine, but what is the rationale for the fact that "police are far more likely to use force when stopping blacks or Latinos than whites"? Why the S.W.A.T. tactics for what should be minor, routine stops? Where is the evidence that massive numbers of stops actually decrease the crime rate?

in the meantime, the police have a responsibility to protect the public, and that means that you'll probably find more cops walking the beat in Brownsville than you will on Lenox Hill.”

Protecting the public. There's the rub.

The author of the article states: "Those of us who live in the neighborhoods where stop-and-frisks are a basic fact of daily life don’t feel safer as a result. "

The police do have a responsibility to protect the public. But not at all costs. That's part of the issue being raised with the TSA. People, by and large, don't agree that invasive and humiliating body searches are an appropriate response to even the threat of terrorism. An airport pat-down is predictable and voluntary (in the sense that you don't HAVE to fly) yet still a horrifying experience. How much more so, when the horror is in your neighborhood and completely outside of your control? When, as a minority, you run the risk of suffering not only a pat-down, but apparently being cuffed and forced to the ground, no matter what neighborhood you happen to be in?
posted by xigxag at 2:16 PM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


does it seem like a sterling example of arguing in "good faith."

As a sign of good faith I won't say that I think anyone in this comment thread is a racist.
posted by howfar at 2:20 PM on December 19, 2011


Protecting the public. There's the rub.

Yeah. It's worth pointing out that Nicholas Peart, who on his 18th birthday had a gun pointed at him by a stranger in a uniform, is a member of the public.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:23 PM on December 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


At what point does "they support a racist political viewpoint" not mean "they're a racist?"

At no point. If they "support a racist political viewpoint" then they are racist. But nowhere in this thread, that I can see, has BobbyVan "supported a racist political viewpoint." Nowhere has he said "blacks are lazy and shiftless, and therefore the police have to take a strong hand with them" or "the only thing blacks understand and respect is force" or anything like that. He's making arguments which, I think, are obtuse and fail to take into account the realities of race in America--but they are not "racist" simply because I disagree with them.
posted by yoink at 2:24 PM on December 19, 2011


Nowhere has he said "blacks are lazy and shiftless, and therefore the police have to take a strong hand with them" or "the only thing blacks understand and respect is force" or anything like that

Interesting.

Oh, by the way, the 40s called, they want their view of what constitutes racism back.
posted by howfar at 2:27 PM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


delmoi, that's a pretty serious charge, but it's seriously misdirected. It's a fact that 90% of black children in the US will be on food stamps at some point in their lives.
100% of white children will eat food subsidized through farm subsidies. Interestingly the article said about half of children overall will be on foodstamps at some point, which means a lot of white kids too. You can still qualify for foodstamps if you have a job, and with the minimum wage being what it is lots and lots of hard working people use them.
But nowhere in this thread, that I can see, has BobbyVan "supported a racist political viewpoint."
Nope, you're wrong. he's absolutely a racist. He's claimed black people are criminals so they need to be frisked 'for their own protection' and that they're all on welfare.

The odd thing is that he claims their 'dependence' (i.e. the acceptance of welfare) which is why they have a bad relationship with the police. Which makes no sense unless you assume he thinks that police treat black people badly because they are upset that they're all on welfare, and thus they have a legitimate grievance and are therefore justified in treating them badly. Or something. It doesn't make much sense at all.

Finally, who spends all their time digging up stats about that supposedly show all black people are criminals or they are all on welfare or whatever? Racists, duh.
posted by delmoi at 2:33 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a sign of good faith I won't say that I think anyone in this comment thread is a racist.

Golf clap for the most breathtaking piece of passive-agressive dickishness I've seen in quite a while. "Good faith" is clearly never going to be any kind of impediment to you.

Oh, by the way, the 40s called, they want their view of what constitutes racism back.

What, you mean like attributing people's psychological and social characteristics to inherited racial qualities? Yeah, it's so amazingly outdated. Nowadays, apparently, "racism" means "disagrees with howfar about the social and political causes of black poverty and crime." I must update my dictionary.
posted by yoink at 2:35 PM on December 19, 2011


I dunno, phrases like "[THING] increases the black crime rate" seem weird and instrumental somehow.

I argue that people should not be abused and degraded and threatened for no reason but the whim of unaccountable armed thugs because it seems to me that a society where that kind of thing happens is a shitty society - and it's a shitty society even if thereby we achieve freedom from "crime". Also because I don't get treated that way, and what have I done that I deserve more safety and freedom than some random person of color? Nothing, that's what. Also because - and this will be the unpopular viewpoint - people who commit crimes are people too, they are complex and multifaceted and not merely cardboard cut-outs, and figuring out how to prevent crime isn't just about identifying the bad cardboard cut-outs and removing them from the neighborhood so that the good cardboard cut-outs (who are never related to or friends with the bad) can live on in cardboard comfort.
posted by Frowner at 2:35 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I enjoyed this article. Thank you, hermitosis.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:36 PM on December 19, 2011


Finally, who spends all their time digging up stats about that supposedly show all black people are criminals or they are all on welfare or whatever? Racists, duh.

Examining statistics about crime and poverty in black communities is what racists do. I see. This must be another of those "post-1940s" definitions of racism.
posted by yoink at 2:37 PM on December 19, 2011


Yeah. It really is a well written article and I'm really glad I read it. I'm sorry if anything I've said in this thread detracts from the piece. Thanks!
posted by howfar at 2:38 PM on December 19, 2011


As a sign of good faith I won't say that I think anyone in this comment thread is a racist.

I find that joke oddly ironic because that is exactly what a good faith discussion entails. It also entails not using a facade to throw out inaccurate and misleading statistics, but then again a good discussion would suss those out and possibly reveal motives in due course. Not by simple disagreement.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:48 PM on December 19, 2011


(1) The police force you to stop...
(2) They address you with profound disrespect...
(3) Having stopped you, there is a high probability of them forcing you to assume some humiliating physical position of submission...


Let's imagine this same scenario went down among private citizens. We're talking assault with a deadly weapon, battery, kidnapping, probably a few others I'm missing... What sort of prison term would that encounter carry? 5-10 years?

These crimes carry harsh sentences because we want to protect our citizens from such trama. And yet our law enforcement is directly responsible for inflicting this trama on our citizens. This is not all Quite Okay just because the assailant is wearing a badge. This is a problem.
posted by LordSludge at 2:55 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I should've probably just stuck with the gun/dick stranger in uniform gag I rejected as being in bad taste. Fuck it.
posted by howfar at 2:57 PM on December 19, 2011


Slight derail (or perhaps re-rail?): What argument did the city make to the court that designates stop-and-frisks as constitutional? I've always been dazed when someone explains to me why this practice hasn't been shed as a clear violation of the 4th amendment.
posted by JayG at 3:03 PM on December 19, 2011


BobbyVan: “I don't agree that it's police harassment alone, or even primarily, that contributes to that erosion, but I'll agree it's a factor. Instead, I'd point to the decline of the black family, a culture of dependence on economic assistance and the failure of our educational institutions as stronger contributors to this ‘erosion of social solidarity.’”

delmoi: “Right, because all black people are on welfare. Why are people taking this racist seriously?”

BobbyVan: “delmoi, that's a pretty serious charge, but it's seriously misdirected. It's a fact that 90% of black children in the US will be on food stamps at some point in their lives.”

You may not realize it; but it's possible to say racist things without realizing that they're prejudicial. I would start by thinking a bit about why you seem to believe that poverty and a resultant need for community support creates a so-called "culture of dependence on economic assistance," and why you believe this contributes to "erosion of social solidarity." Moreover, you must be aware that referring to "the decline of the black family" without being specific about what you mean precisely is pretty fraught and liable to cause misunderstanding and perhaps some offense. Did you have a reason for saying that, or is it just a suspicion? And why the focus on the black family? There are more Latinos and Hispanics in New York City than black people. Is there an issue surrounding "the decline of the Hispanic family," too? Again, I'm not sure this can be so easily put down to cultural climates conducive to crime, at least not on racially-drawn lines. This is completely ignoring the ancillary fact that the decline of the white family doesn't seem to have led to an increase in crime in our communities; that, too, would seem to indicate that the rise or decline of the family has absolutely nothing to do with this.
posted by koeselitz at 3:07 PM on December 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I recall an episode of This American Life in which they interviewed an NYC cop by the name of Adrian Schoolcraft. Schoolcraft was disgusted by the constant directives to meet quotas - for example, he and his colleagues were told that they needed to conduct a certain number of stop and frisks, give a specific number of tickets...etc., or face administrative penalties.

Schoolcraft started recording these directives with a little MP3 recorder - they play clips of his recordings throughout the episode. Schoolcraft eventually released his tapes to the Village Voice. Because he refused to, amongst other things, conduct unlawful searches without probable cause, Schoolcraft was drummed out of the force on phony charges that he was mentally unstable (the NYPD actually had him forcibly committed).

A lot of the discussion in the episode focused on COMPSTAT, the crime statistics tracking program used by NYPD. Basically, the NYPD were trying to pump up the stats to make themselves look better.

It seems like this ridiculous 'walking while black' culture of illegal searches might be part of that.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:19 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Growing up, I've been stop 'n' frisked in my home town (home of the Fullerton "We don't care what color you are; we will be happy to beat you death regardless" Police Dept.), which really makes me wonder how much worse I'd have had it were I of African or Mexican descent.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:20 PM on December 19, 2011


Whoops, meant to link to this.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:21 PM on December 19, 2011


infinitywaltz, your second link is still wrong. But I would really like to read the article you're trying to link to!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:24 PM on December 19, 2011


Slight derail (or perhaps re-rail?): What argument did the city make to the court that designates stop-and-frisks as constitutional?

Pretty essential, actually - it's called a Terry Stop. Police need only meet a reasonable suspicion standard to do one, as opposed to the higher standard, probable cause. Thank the Supreme Court for that one.

Makes me wonder what, if any, documentation the police need to have to establish reasonably suspicion. It is unlikely that they are meeting the standard for a lot of these stops, unless people just act more suspiciously these days.
posted by borges at 3:30 PM on December 19, 2011


Makes me wonder what, if any, documentation the police need to have to establish reasonably suspicion. It is unlikely that they are meeting the standard for a lot of these stops, unless people just act more suspiciously these days.

It's likely that I should have said 'reasonable suspicion' rather than 'probable cause' in my comment above. I'm not too familiar with the US terminology.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:37 PM on December 19, 2011


There are lot of situations where an officer needs to meet the standard of probably cause, but stopping people on the street is not one of them. There is nothing unconstitutional about the stop and frisks if the police can meet the reasonable suspicion standard. I was positing that the police probably could not meet the standard in a lot of these stops (given that they are rose 13% from last year to this.) Something is clearly amiss...

Second, I wonder how many of these stops would actually hold up if they were challenged...
posted by borges at 3:47 PM on December 19, 2011


And my apologies that i keep typing probably when i mean probable...
posted by borges at 3:48 PM on December 19, 2011


Sorry, His thoughts were red thoughts, I was trying to link to the Wikipedia article about the death of Kelly Thomas.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:49 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because he refused to, amongst other things, conduct unlawful searches without probable cause, Schoolcraft was drummed out of the force on phony charges that he was mentally unstable (the NYPD actually had him forcibly committed).

Jesus, that isn't terrifying at all OH WAIT YEAH IT TOTALLY IS.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:54 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Were I in charge of the NYPD I would bring in two easy changes. Firstly, ubiquitious lifelogging. Whatever a cop does while on duty is public record. If a cop wants to take a piss or make a personal phone call, fair enough to turn it off for those ten minutes, but he/she is not a cop for those ten minutes and unrecorded actions are not police actions

I think this is a terrible idea, though it sounds good at first. While it might eliminate some of the worst excesses, I think this would actually lead to more harassment rather than less by taking any individual discretion or local standards out of the equation.

You see this with the TSA - everybody has to go through the scanners or get a pat-down regardless of the situation.
posted by borges at 3:55 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Examining statistics about crime and poverty in black communities is what racists do.
Well, depends on their motivation. If it's to argue that police need to harass young blacks and Latinos, then yeah. And why bring up incidents of food stamp use in a totally unrelated thread?

It's not that complicated. What's the motivation? He's not racist because he brought up those stats, he brought up those stats because he's a racist.
I think this is a terrible idea, though it sounds good at first. While it might eliminate some of the worst excesses, I think this would actually lead to more harassment rather than less by taking any individual discretion or local standards out of the equation.
TL:DR; If we actually start recording the police, white people would start getting hassled by the police (they won't use their 'discretion' to avoid harassing them!)
posted by delmoi at 4:19 PM on December 19, 2011


(Just like how the TSA hassles everyone instead of just Muslims!)
posted by delmoi at 4:19 PM on December 19, 2011


Can we please focus on the links and not on calling members of the site racist?
posted by agregoli at 4:21 PM on December 19, 2011


You see this with the TSA - everybody has to go through the scanners or get a pat-down regardless of the situation.

This is not quite the same thing. You need to go through the security clearance procedures because you are entering a secure area. Air travelers make the choice to undergo security screening (the screening procedures are flawed, and much of it is security theatre, but that is a different issue) . Whereas people walking down the street are not making that choice, they are simply being assaulted by cops.

Cops, I think, would be more reluctant to behave poorly if they knew that there would be unassailable evidence that could be used against them in court. Police departments would be forced to train their people not to break the law or risk the certainty of multi-million dollar lawsuits that could not be defended, no matter how much they closed ranks. The bad or stupid cops would have to be fired, eventually leading to a better police force [/dreamworld].

On the other hand, the knowledge that they were being filmed did not stop these guys.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:24 PM on December 19, 2011


Sorry, His thoughts were red thoughts, I was trying to link to the Wikipedia article about the death of Kelly Thomas.

I just read that. What the fucking fuck? That is horrible.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:27 PM on December 19, 2011


No, it's not exactly the same thing, but it is a perfect example of a standard of search being rigidly applied regardless of efficacy. at least the stop and frisks yield some results sometimes.
posted by borges at 4:32 PM on December 19, 2011


TL:DR; If we actually start recording the police, white people would start getting hassled by the police (they won't use their 'discretion' to avoid harassing them!)

Are you so daft that you would consider that an improvement?
posted by borges at 4:39 PM on December 19, 2011


No, it's not exactly the same thing, but it is a perfect example of a standard of search being rigidly applied regardless of efficacy. at least the stop and frisks yield some results sometimes.
It's also an example of people not being singled out for their race or ethnicity (although that does actually happen with the TSA). What you're arguing for is to let the cops act in secret, so they can continue to harass people like the author of the article, but not 'good' people such as, I imagine, yourself by using 'discretion'. Giving racists 'discretion' to harass minorities is the problem.

If 'respectable' people got stopped and frisked, it would go away, politicians would no longer support it.
posted by delmoi at 4:42 PM on December 19, 2011


Are you so daft that you would consider that an improvement?
I'm black, so, yes?
posted by delmoi at 4:42 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Are you so daft that you would consider that an improvement?
Building on what I said earlier, of course it's an improvement if everyone is treated the same. wanting to ignore the rights and dignity of minorities so that you, personally aren't inconvenienced is a disgusting attitude. And obviously, as a black person it would be better for me, personally if I lived in NYC. So I exactly see how that could be a 'daft' opinion to hold.

How could it be 'daft' for me not to want want to be harassed by the cops in secret to make your life easier?
posted by delmoi at 4:47 PM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Actually, I just discovered that This American life does full transcripts of their episodes! So, for those who can't be bothered sitting through an hour of podcast, here's the transcript of the Adrian Schoolcraft episode - "You Have the Right to Remain Silent" (Act 2)

Bonus: Act 2 of this episode (podcast) is a hilarious (if concerning) account of a stop for riding while black with a white kid (transcript), from the perspective of a writer doing a ride along with the cops. Much of the charm of the story is in the delivery, but you get the idea from the transcript.

[I listen to a lot of TAL. So sue me]
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:48 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, it's not exactly the same thing, but it is a perfect example of a standard of search being rigidly applied regardless of efficacy. at least the stop and frisks yield some results sometimes.

Way-ull... the idea of the TSA searches is that they prevent people from even trying to get on planes with knives, guns, explosives etc - so the efficacy is unmeasurable, but the TSA would argue that it exists. Everyone knows they are going to be searched, so they don't bring weapons. A better example would be metal detectors at school entrances.

People on the street don't go out expecting to be stopped and frisked by the Police on any given day, so they are proportionately more likely to carry illegal objects. White people in particular can be pretty sure that they are not going to be stopped and frisked, so the risks from carrying illegal objects is actually pretty minimal, as long as they don't try to get on a plane. Even African-Americans in New York City, although they are far more likely to be stopped, are still on average unlikely to be stopped on any given day.

I suspect that one way to make the TSA screening process worse would be to let "non-suspicious" people walk through without any kind of search - since, apart from anything else, it would mean that a non-suspicious-looking terrorist would be pretty confident of being able to get through security.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:53 PM on December 19, 2011


I suspect that one way to make the TSA screening process worse would be to let "non-suspicious" people walk through without any kind of search

Well, except for those effective and unintrusive magnetometers and carry-on xray machines....
posted by mikelieman at 5:15 PM on December 19, 2011


Actually, the TSA does find stuff, from their site:
We intercepted 13,709,211 prohibited items at our security checkpoints. Of this, 11,616,249 were lighters and 1,607,100 were knives.
The problem is that most most people believe that stuff won't actually be used to blow up airplanes.

But the other thing, the TSA really only has an impact on a minority of people, frequent air travelers. I would bet that most people don't fly often enough for it to be a big issue in their lives, so, from a political standpoint it's not that big of an issue.

It's the same with only going after racial minorities for these stop 'n' frisks. A city government is going to be even more responsive to voters then the federal one. If middle class, white newyorkers were getting hassled by the police it's likely that the policies would change.

The more you think about borges argument, the more disgusting it gets. He's basically arguing that police should be allowed discretion to harass ethnic minorities, because if they were actually held accountable for their actions (using cameras) they would also hassle people like him (but nearly as badly). He actually wants racially discriminatory policies so that he, as a white person, can benefit from them. How fucked up is that?
posted by delmoi at 5:18 PM on December 19, 2011


Delmoi: First it seems like you are arguing for white people to be harassed more, because then at least that's 'fair.' Then, you seem to be saying you would like to see white people get harassed more, because if they were, you believe that black people would in turn be harassed less. And that is because you think white people wouldn't stand for the harassment and would fight it (perhaps reducing the harassement of black people by police officers.) How about just reducing the overall level of harassment, because that's what I am arguing for. Would that be acceptable to you?
posted by borges at 5:20 PM on December 19, 2011


He's basically arguing that police should be allowed discretion to harass ethnic minorities, because if they were actually held accountable for their actions (using cameras) they would also hassle people like him (but nearly as badly). He actually wants racially discriminatory policies so that he, as a white person, can benefit from them. How fucked up is that?

Just because you have a chip on your shoulder does not give you the right to put words in my mouth I did not say. Again, if you bothered to read the material on Schoolcraft, you would see that part of the problem is that the officers are being held to quotas on Stop and Frisks - i.e. they were not allowed to use their discretion at all. And it is reasonable to infer that the lack of individual discretion and quotas is what conspired to increase the number of Stop and Frisks by a significant percentage every year. Without the quotas, there would be less harassement overall. Schoolcraft wanted the discretion to overlook certain infractions (and not be held to the quotas) so he could focus on the bad guys.
posted by borges at 5:27 PM on December 19, 2011


borges, I'm pretty sure the argument is that if the police applied the law as it stands at the moment equally, you'd get what you want pretty quick. However, even if this didn't lead to the hoped-for reforms, it would still be preferential as it would be fair, and it would thus be a lot more possible to have a reasoned debate on the stop-and-search laws, since everyone would be on the same page about it, knowing quite how much the police can and do get away with.
posted by Dysk at 5:30 PM on December 19, 2011


Actually, the TSA does find stuff, from their site:

You don't need a body scan or a patdown to find a knife on an air traveler, it's intrusive, and unnecessary.
posted by borges at 5:30 PM on December 19, 2011


Really, I accidentally carried on a pocketknife on my last flight.
posted by desjardins at 5:34 PM on December 19, 2011


I'm pretty sure the argument is that if the police applied the law as it stands at the moment equally

And that is part of the problem. It's not a law, it's an investigative technique. It can't be applied perfectly equally because it's conditioned on the officer's 'reasonable suspicion' and not on anything else. I'm willing to bet that an officer, when pressed, can pretty easily meet a reasonable suspicion standard. e.g. "I heard about a robbery in progress over the radio and the guys I stopped met the description I heard of the suspects."
posted by borges at 5:36 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


> But I thought the 814 figure was being bandied about as justifying the searches.

I think it's intended as one bit of evidence that the stop and frisk policies are working. It's not intended as the sole metric by which their efficacy is supposed to be measured. It's a good PR figure, basically, but it's not necessarily what the people at 1PP are concerned with at the end of the day.

The powers of the police are being applied in a discriminatory fashion, and even their own data doesn't suggest that this application produces results better than chance*.

The RAND Corporation conducted a statistical study which indicated the policies do not have a racially discriminatory impact, with reference to what you'd expect based on the racial breakdown of criminal suspects. I will leave it to others to poke holes in their methodology, their institutional biases, and so on. Some of the same objections that were made upthread to BobbyVan's first link may apply here too. But suffice it to say that independent people who do this stuff for a living did come to this conclusion.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:38 PM on December 19, 2011


Sorry, messed up that link: study.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:39 PM on December 19, 2011


I think this is a terrible idea, though it sounds good at first. While it might eliminate some of the worst excesses, I think this would actually lead to more harassment rather than less by taking any individual discretion or local standards out of the equation.

I don't believe it would lead to more harassment. I think the opposite - because a large number of these stops are in fact pure harassment, having them recorded, would cut down on their frequency. But more importantly, it would, I believe, in quick order lead to reforms. All you'd have to do, is to have the officers obliged to justify every "reasonable suspicion" - right there, the officers can be trained in what constitutes "reasonable". Further, if you, as a LEO, have stats which show your "suspicion" results in unacceptable levels of false positives (levels which can be defined), then you should be told that you need to calibrate your "suspicious behavior detector", and get training. This is not a trivial issue - misallocation of police resources is a serious problem in these days of budgetary cutbacks, not to mention the social repercussions. And if you continue to not improve your stats, then maybe you should be put on desk duty - because your performance, objectively, is lacking. I suspect, lickety split, we'd cut down on this whole nonsense. Of course, it'll never happen, because the political will does not exist to implement this.
posted by VikingSword at 5:42 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


In this day and age, there is no reason whatsoever that every officer in the large cities don't have a camera attached to themselves. They're cheap and small, and can sit on their shoulders next to their mics. The storage for the video would need to be checked and archived properly but you could just hire a person or two for Internal Affairs. For safety reasons alone it would make sense. What do we need to do to make that happen?
posted by P.o.B. at 5:54 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


For one, I think there are better ways to reduce harassment than recording everything an officer does. Moreover, I do believe that recording everything an officer does will lead to a higher conviction rate for minor infractions (more people being harassed and convicted for more things.)

The point that everybody seems to be missing is that the Stop and Frisks are not a 'rogue cop' problem but are a results of a specific management practice being used in NYC. Cops aren't being asked to calibrate their 'suspicious behavior detectors' or apply any discretion of their, they are being asked to meet Stop and Frisk quotas!
posted by borges at 5:55 PM on December 19, 2011


Moreover, I do believe that recording everything an officer does will lead to a higher conviction rate for minor infractions (more people being harassed and convicted for more things.)

Nope. Should there be large numbers of arrests for minor infractions, what will happen is that laws will be changed to cut down on stupid infractions. There would be public outcry and ready access to evidence, all recorded and publicly available to mobilize political action. Stupid laws continue to exist, because there's not enough incentive to abolish them, either because they are exercise primarily against the politically less powerful, or not often enough to spur wide political backlash. And that's exactly what history shows: when you have laws on the books which it is in the discretion of the authorities to enforce or not, it becomes an instrument of oppression, where a LEO can pick and choose when and against whom to enforce it. And when such unreasonable and harassing laws are applied not quietly, but openly (as would be if every time they were recorded), then you'd have these laws challenged and changed - as the sodomy laws in Texas were, when they were used to harass gay people. It's all about transparency. Transparency is paramount in enforcing the law - the more, the better. I say record them, full time, in the course of LEOs discharging their duties. It would be salutary all around. Less harassment, and fewer stupid laws/regulations designed to oppress.
posted by VikingSword at 6:11 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


The point that everybody seems to be missing is that the Stop and Frisks are not a 'rogue cop' problem but are a results of a specific management practice being used in NYC. Cops aren't being asked to calibrate their 'suspicious behavior detectors' or apply any discretion of their, they are being asked to meet Stop and Frisk quotas!

Except... they are still exercising discretion about whom to stop and frisk, right? And the vast majority of stoppees are black or Latino?

And also that this is not just happening in NYC? The ACLU took the Philadelphia PD to court over stop and frisk - without, to the best of my knowledge, an NYPD tapes-style "smoking gun" on quotas.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:16 PM on December 19, 2011


Delmoi: First it seems like you are arguing for white people to be harassed more, because then at least that's 'fair.'
Are you literally arguing that it would be unfair for people to be treated equally? I've seen some logical contortions from time to time but that's pretty amazing.
How about just reducing the overall level of harassment, because that's what I am arguing for. Would that be acceptable to you?
No, you argued that the police should not be recorded, because if they were they would no longer use their 'discretion' to heavily target minorities and leave white people mostly alone. That's what you said.
I think this is a terrible idea, though it sounds good at first. While it might eliminate some of the worst excesses, I think this would actually lead to more harassment rather than less by taking any individual discretion or local standards out of the equation.
"Individual discretion" in this case means targeting minorities and 'local standards' also means... targeting minorities. Plus, the argument that police should not be recorded they can use their 'discretion' to break the law is just mind blowing.

In fact the NYPD often used the 'discretion' they got by not being recorded to plant drugs on innocent people, something cameras could obviously greatly mitigate.
Then, you seem to be saying you would like to see white people get harassed more, because if they were, you believe that black people would in turn be harassed less.
Thank you for clearly stating that you want white people to be treated better by the police then black people.

Just for the record, I do think that the police not engage in racial discrimination and they should treat everyone equally regardless of race, and I think cameras are a good way to enforce that, along with preventing lots of other 'bad cop' problems.

---
The RAND Corporation conducted a statistical study which indicated the policies do not have a racially discriminatory impact
Did you actually even open that PDF? Here's what is says.
Our analysis found the following:
*Officers frisked white suspects slightly less frequently than they did similarly situated nonwhites (29 percent of stops versus 33 percent of stops). Black suspects are slightly likelier to have been frisked than white suspects stopped in circumstances similar to the black suspects (46 percent versus 42 percent). While there is a gap, this difference is much smaller than what the aggregate statistics indicated.

*The rates of searches were nearly equal across racial groups, between 6 and 7 percent. However, in Staten Island, the rate of searching nonwhite suspects was significantly greater than that of searching white suspects.

*White suspects were slightly likelier to be issued a summons than were similarly situated nonwhite suspects (5.7 percent versus 5.2 percent). On the other hand, arrest rates for white suspects were slightly lower than those for similarly situated nonwhites (4.8 percent versus 5.1 percent).

*Officers were slightly less likely to use force against white suspects than they were to use it against similarly situated nonwhites (15 percent versus 16 percent); however, in Queens,
That's on page 15 of the PDF. On page 16:
Overall, after adjustment for stop circumstances, we generally found small racial differences in the rates of frisk, search, use of force, and arrest. Nonwhites generally experienced slightly more intrusive stops, in terms of having more frequent frisks and searches, than did similarly situated white suspects. While most racial differences in post-stop outcomes were small, for some outcomes in some boroughs, the gaps warrant a closer review. For example, the Staten Island borough stands out particularly with several large racial gaps in the frisk rates (20 percent of whites versus 29 percent of similarly situated blacks), search rates (5 percent for whites versus 8 percent of similarly situated blacks), and use-of-force rates (10 percent for whites and 14 percent for similarly situated blacks).
Where on earth are you getting "do not have a racially discriminatory impact"? from? Did you actually even read the summary of the report? Later on they do say that there are some other factors that have an impact, but that there is still racial bias in the data:
Our results using more precise benchmarks do not eliminate the observed racial disparities. However, they do indicate that the disparities are much smaller than the raw statistics would suggest. This result does not absolve the NYPD of the need to monitor the issue
posted by delmoi at 6:16 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


We intercepted 13,709,211 prohibited items at our security checkpoints. Of this, 11,616,249 were lighters and 1,607,100 were knives.

Yoy realise of course, that the 1.6 million 'knives' almost certainly includes nail clippers, nail files, keychain multitools, unless the TSA contends that none of those items show up at all.

The TSA's website is nothing short of propaganda.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:17 PM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think this is a terrible idea, though it sounds good at first. While it might eliminate some of the worst excesses, I think this would actually lead to more harassment rather than less by taking any individual discretion or local standards out of the equation.

Borges, on review, could you please clarify why you think 'always-on' personal surveillance/life logging would lead to more harrassment? I don't understand how you think this would take away indiviudal officer discretion.

As it is, officers are using their 'discretion' to harrass people, in part because there is clearly no reasonable possibiilty of punishment for the abuse of their powers.

Surveillance would only ensure that they are accountable for their actions, in hindsight. It wouldn't actively hinder the performance of their duties - i.e., prevent them from exercising their powers, or require them to exercise their powers.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:29 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


For one, I think there are better ways to reduce harassment than recording everything an officer does.

What are these better ways?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:31 PM on December 19, 2011


(On the minor derail, which I realise is my fault - I think it's probably fair to say that the number of quote-unquote knives removed by the TSA which would otherwise have been used in any form of terrorist activity or violence while in the air is negligible. However, that isn't really the goal of the screening process, which is intended to discourage potential terrorists (and, it seems sometimes, actual customers) from trying to get on board planes in the first place carrying weapons. As his thoughts were red thoughts says, I would imagine that intercepting a knife here includes someone realising that they still have a pair of nail scissors in their bag and handing them over.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:31 PM on December 19, 2011


"The point that everybody seems to be missing is that the Stop and Frisks are not a 'rogue cop' problem but are a results of a specific management practice being used in NYC. Cops aren't being asked to calibrate their 'suspicious behavior detectors' or apply any discretion of their, they are being asked to meet Stop and Frisk quotas!"

The point that you're missing is that quotas may justify the numbers, but they don't justify the treatment. If cops were merely stopping young black men the same way that they stop (say) old white men, "Oh, sorry sir, would you mind a quick pat down? Just doing our jobs to protect the community. We apologize for any inconvenience, but we'll be as quick as possible," then people would be objecting less strongly. Instead, we see, as in the article, cops cuffing young men for no reason, pushing their faces on the ground or against the wall, using language designed to humiliate and provoke them into resisting arrest, trying to force them into an open display of any recreational drugs they may have on their person, taken into the station and being put through the system on the tiniest of pretexts, etc.

And when a cop clearly goes over the line, it is a rare, rare exception that someone like Schoolcraft objects. Instead, we see by and large, from the rank and file all the way up to the mayor's office, attempts to cover-up, obfuscate, and minimize the severity of the offense. Over and over again. Even the existence of quotas and trumped-up arrests speaks, not just to rogue cops, but to an entire rogue agency.

And, by the way, describing delmoi as having a "chip on his shoulder" is exactly the type of paternalistic language used for generations to delegitimize the grievances of black people. That's exactly why some of us think justice would be served by having everyone frisked to the same excessive degree. Clearly black complaints about the situation are proving mostly ineffectual, and just being brushed aside. And so, we think, we don't have enough votes to stop this injustice on our own, but maybe if everyone had a taste of it, they would see how wrong it is.

On the other hand, I can see why you object. Thinking whites would never put up with the same level of mistreatment as they subject us to; in hindsight it seems a bit naive. The police state is encroaching on every way of life, and people of all races are by and large acquiescing even while grumbling about it. In a sense, people like Nicholas Peart are the test rabbits for social policy. If the NYPD, or the FBI, or the Maricopa County Sheriff's office can get away with riding roughshod over the rights of minorities, then it's only a matter of time before they mainstream the practice.
posted by xigxag at 6:35 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


You don't need a body scan or a patdown to find a knife on an air traveler, it's intrusive, and unnecessary.

The stated policy purpose of body scanners is to detect non-metallic explosive items, including explosives and plastic/ceramic knives. Such items are not detectable by existing metal detectors.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:35 PM on December 19, 2011


Excuse me, I meant 'non-metallic explosive items'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:41 PM on December 19, 2011


Borges, on review, could you please clarify why you think 'always-on' personal surveillance/life logging would lead to more harrassment? I don't understand how you think this would take away indiviudal officer discretion.

Presumably, you and anybody else the officer looked at would also be under surveillance. Since it would all be on tape, I think the officer would be compelled to press minor offenses. And I think the intimidating effect of the camera might lead to 'suspicious' behavior that could be used to justify reasonable suspicion.
posted by borges at 6:47 PM on December 19, 2011


What are these better ways?

The RAND report, of all places, has a few suggestions.
posted by borges at 6:49 PM on December 19, 2011


Presumably, you and anybody else the officer looked at would also be under surveillance. Since it would all be on tape, I think the officer would be compelled to press minor offenses.

I think this is based on a misapprehension, though. Given that each officer would be producing hours of real-time video every shift, I'd assume that there would be no mechanism for routine monitoring of all cameras to check for minor infractions not being picked up. Rather, the footage would be timecoded; specific objections to specific encounters would be checked by exception. It would also make sense if footage were flagged automatically whenever a Taser or firearm left its holster. That would be easy enough to do with RFIDs.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:02 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The RAND Corporation conducted a statistical study which indicated the policies do not have a racially discriminatory impact

I'm going to pull one thing out of their data straight away. Searches of white people were almost twice as likely to discover contraband as searches of black people (6.4% v 3.3%). The work that the RAND people do on this data is pretty amazing. They first adjust the figures in the following manner (the example used is assault):

"Specifically, rather than 7 percent of frisked white suspects having the assault recovery rate of 3.4 percent, we consider what would have happened if instead 3 percent (the percentage of frisked black suspects who were suspected of assault) of the frisked white suspects had the assault recovery rate of 3.4 percent."

That's pretty interesting. In order for such methodology to be sound, it is necessary for race to have no effect on what crimes are suspected when stop and frisk is used. If it isn't, then the fact that black people are more likely to be stopped and searched in relation to crimes of which they are not guilty will be concealed. If 10% of black people are stopped on suspicion of crime A, and the hit rate is 1%, and 20% of white people are stopped for crime A with a hit rate of 2%, then interpreting your data as if only 10% of white people were stopped for crime A will halve the impact of that disparity on your final summary.

If the police are disproportionately stopping black people on bullshit suspicions, then you'd expect the charges used for this reason to be disproportionately represented. Guess what, 51% of all black people stopped and frisked are stopped and frisked on suspicion of carrying a weapon. Only 2.1% are carrying any contraband (28% and 5% for white people). 21% of stop and frisks on black people find are on suspicion of robbery, only turning up contraband 1.3% of the time (14% and 2% for white people). 72% of all stop and frisks of black people occur on the two suspicions least likely to be well founded.

And even after their adjustments, RAND don't quote the figure arrived at in the summary! Instead we get "Officers recovered contraband...in 6.4 percent of the stops of white suspects. The contraband recovery rate was 5.7 percent for similarly situated black suspects" The adjustments done to produce this figure again seem potentially dubious, as they only compare searches of similar type and with similar motivation. For example, people who are changing direction when seeing an officer and fitting a suspect description are compared with each other. It's pretty obvious that interpreting the data in this way is likely to make any racial bias less apparent. If black people get searched twice as often as white ones on no evidence, it is not appropriate to compensate for that by interpreting the data as if white people were that likely to be searched on no evidence.

Similarly motivated searches will doubtless have similar results, the problem is that there are a disproportionate number of searches carried out on black people that have no good motivation. The RAND interpretation doesn't, to my eye, deal with this at all. I am doubtful that it sets out to deal with it. The bottom line figure is hit rates of 6.4% v 3.3% for white people v black people. The adjusted hit rate given in the summary is 6.4% v 5.7%. We were talking about good faith earlier...
posted by howfar at 7:04 PM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Since it would all be on tape, I think the officer would be compelled to press minor offenses.

In addition to what squabble said, I'd point out that there are parts of NYC (e.g. in the vicinity of 1 Police Plaza and other nearby government offices) which are fairly well blanketed by government surveillance cameras even now. Cops working that beat have to know that their every move is on tape somewhere. And yet, they're not ticketing people in massive numbers for minor infractions such as jaywalking and littering. There are also many jurisdictions where the local highway patrol has an always-on dashcam. I'm not aware of any report that the police in those jurisdictions feel compelled to pursue every instance of improper signaling or lane change. At least at first blush, the evidence doesn't seem to lend credence to your hypothesis.
posted by xigxag at 7:09 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Presumably, you and anybody else the officer looked at would also be under surveillance.

True. There would have to be good privacy policies in place. Presumably, after a reasonable amount time, the footage that didn't relate to relevant incidents would be deleted.

Since it would all be on tape, I think the officer would be compelled to press minor offenses.

There are a lot of assumptions there. I would argue that the surveillance itself would not compel officers to press minor offences - that seems more likely to be motivated by the need to meet illegal quotas. And even if footage was used to prosecute minor offences, well, they are still offences. Officers still have the discretion as to whether to issue a citation, prosecutors still have the discretion as to whether they should prosecute.

However, it would completely take away the ability for officer to manfacture minor offences or lie about the circumstances or details of the event. Officers could not falsely claim, for example, that the victim attacked them first.

A common example I used to see a lot in Sydney:

- officers would approach and harrass some teenagers with no reasonable suspicion of anything other than walking while being poor and young.

- teenagers would tell the officers to go fuck themselves.

- officers would try to arrest teenagers for 'offensive language near a public place or school' - a minor infraction for which you CANNOT BE ARRESTED - its only punishable by a small fine.

- kids 'resist' unlawful arrest, i.e., try to run, struggle when cuffed.

- officers charge kids with offensive language, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer (often by hitting the fists of the officers with their faces).

Surveillance would prevent that, by showing that the officers in question were trying to make an illegal arrest.

And I think the intimidating effect of the camera might lead to 'suspicious' behavior that could be used to justify reasonable suspicion.

These cameras would be small and unobtrusive. I think its unlikely that people would notice them. But even if people did become nervous when faced with an office wearing a camera, so what? Being nervous isn't a crime. Reasonable suspicion doesn't mean a suspect is automatically guity. There has to be evidence.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:13 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Yes, your Honor, that's correct. My shoulder cam unit malfunctioned after the suspect attacked me."
posted by agregoli at 7:18 PM on December 19, 2011


"Yes, your Honor, that's correct. My shoulder cam unit malfunctioned after the suspect attacked me."

Really, Officer Friendly? At the same time that the shoulder cam units of your three colleagues on the scene also malfunctioned?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:25 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Yes, your Honor, that's correct. My shoulder cam unit malfunctioned after the suspect attacked me repeatedly bashed his testicles against it."

I think we're presuming tamper proof data storage though, and probably wireless uploads as well.

This is so obviously a good idea I can't believe anyone's really arguing about it. Bent/bad/lazy/racist coppers would hate it. Even if it didn't do any good, it would make a few scumbags absolutely fucking miserable every day of their working lives.
posted by howfar at 7:29 PM on December 19, 2011


Is this the point where it's OK to post the Not the Nine O'Clock News racist policeman sketch? Looks like I just did, anyway.
posted by howfar at 7:33 PM on December 19, 2011


The cameras might lead to better behaved cops, but why would video alone reduce the number of stop and frisks? Remember the standard is reasonable suspicion. That does not mean that the video would need to establish the suspicion. The suspicion is in the officer's mind, not on the video. Video also wouldn't address the over or underrepresentness of a group in Stop and Frisks. We already have that data.

So, better behaved cops, maybe less harassment, unless you consider the stops themselves to be harassment, which I would BTW. And you still have the quotas.
posted by borges at 7:57 PM on December 19, 2011


Kafka Surrenders
posted by homunculus at 7:57 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


In part due to the extensive use of video cameras in police car dashboards, the Justice Department investigated the Seattle Police Department and found it regularly "engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law.".

Without the video many of the instances of abuse wouldn't have come to light. Interestingly, the department is now being sued for refusing to disclose thousands of hours of other dash-cam video.
posted by formless at 8:11 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The cameras might lead to better behaved cops, but why would video alone reduce the number of stop and frisks?

Did anyone argue that they would reduce the number of stop and frisks, though - at least immediately? I think the point was that the kind of stop and frisks described by Nicholas Peart - handcuffs, sock pat downs, put in the back of a police car, or driven to the floor with a gun pointed at your back - would stop happening if there would be regular documented evidence that black and latino people were getting a qualitatively as well as quantitively different kind of stop and frisk. Or they would not, and the qualitative difference would be clearly documented, which would lead to action.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:15 PM on December 19, 2011


So even when the cameras are installed they can obstruct access? Even when the cops are violating the law? This goes to show that the cameras aren't there to protect citizens, they are there there to protect the cops.

With regard to the stops - most people intersted in the issue are mover focused on reeducing the use of the technique, less so on the citizen's experience of the stop.
posted by borges at 8:45 PM on December 19, 2011


On the minor derail, which I realise is my fault - I think it's probably fair to say that the number of quote-unquote knives removed by the TSA which would otherwise have been used in any form of terrorist activity or violence while in the air is negligible.
Yes, of course. I was just pointing it out because the argument was made that the cops actually 'find stuff' when they do searches, compared to the TSA, but the TSA finds millions of verboten items. I remember reading that they had actually found a number of grenades (or at least dummy grenades). And I'm sure they've found some number of guns. I think the TSA is certainly over the top given the risk.
The point that you're missing is that quotas may justify the numbers, but they don't justify the treatment. If cops were merely stopping young black men the same way that they stop (say) old white men, "Oh, sorry sir, would you mind a quick pat down? Just doing our jobs to protect the community. We apologize for any inconvenience, but we'll be as quick as possible," then people would be objecting less strongly.
Yeah, exactly. I'm not even sure if I would object to 'stop and frisk' if it were actually done in a polite and non-discriminatory way -- except for the fact it seems very un-american. But from what this guy wrote that doesn't seem to be the case at all. I would say put cameras on cops and dock their pay if they're rude/abusive to innocent people.
Presumably, you and anybody else the officer looked at would also be under surveillance. Since it would all be on tape, I think the officer would be compelled to press minor offenses. -- borges
So now you're saying cops shouldn't have cameras so that people (that the cops like) can get away with breaking the law? Honestly the best policy is to enforce all laws, and then get rid of laws people don't like being enforced. Selective enforcement just opens the doors do racial bias. Which is apparently what you want.

(Also the idea that the cameras will lead to cops arresting people for minor infractions is totally at odds with reality and even if it were true how hard is it not to break the law in an obvious way in public? What kind of 'minor infractions' could the police possibly arrest people for. You're obviously just fishing for some kind of justification here.)

You've said pretty much literally that you think white people should not be hassled by the police as much black people are. I think it's safe to ignore what you have to say. Honestly what you said was really fucking stupid and pretty much indefensible. It's not racist exactly but in a way it's a lot worse: you want the police to be able to be racist so that you, as a white person can benefit from it. Really disgusting, and not any different in practice then actual racism.
posted by delmoi at 9:10 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


why would video alone reduce the number of stop and frisks? Remember the standard is reasonable suspicion. That does not mean that the video would need to establish the suspicion.

Is the number of stops the key? Or is the quality of them? The purpose of these stop and frisks, is presumably not to stop those who are innocent of any wrongdoing. The platonic ideal would be to stop only the law-breakers. We want to minimize unproductive stops. Every stop & frisk should be analyzed - just as it is done every time an officer uses his gun. The officer must give a full accounting of the exact nature of his "reasonable suspicion". This is an opportunity for the LEO to receive valuable training. Huge numbers of stops are not productive - and making the LEO justify every one, allows him to refine and make more "reasonable" his sense of suspicion. Like any skill, it improves with practice and analysis and training. He might get rid of subconscious bias that leads him to make wrong stops. Eventually, his ratio of productive to unproductive stops will improve. And that naturally might lead to fewer stops overall because the number of unproductive stops drops in number - but not necessarily, because perhaps the number of good stops escalates. Which is still good. After all, we want to strive for quality. Now obviously, it's not realistic to expect that any LEO would reach the platonic ideal of only good stops. But it would improve the overall quality of stops, and certainly weed out the venal or incompetent cops. Because while a video (with sound), might not tell the whole story, it is a powerful deterrent to a LEO making up stories - with training the evaluators will be able to spot BS rather quickly. It's hard to make up a story that will always be consistent with a video and sound, and it seriously constricts the number of options for making up lies (you can't claim the subject "made a move" or "said something" when the tape shows otherwise). But ultimately, the power is in the numbers - statistics. If an officer constantly has a high number of bad stops, then no matter what his story, clearly there's a problem - and that can be looked into.

Accountability. Training. Selection. Transparency. In the end, it's beneficial to the police departments as well - fewer bad stops allow for more rational allocation of resources, better community relations, and better cooperation from citizens who don't feel singled out. And of course, it's better for ordinary citizens too, not to be harassed by malicious or incompetent cops.

With regard to the stops - most people intersted in the issue are mover focused on reeducing the use of the technique, less so on the citizen's experience of the stop.

Nope. Most people are interested not in stopping law enforcement and allowing criminals to victimize others. So good stops - which catch criminals - would certainly find support. But what they don't want is the bad stops, which are simply harassment. And that can be ameliorated with vigorous accountability and training - and certainly, the citizenry does not expect perfection, so they will accept a certain number of bad stops as simply mistakes - but only if they see the proof of that in their daily experience.
posted by VikingSword at 9:11 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


We are talking about 6% hit rate (in arrests) citywide, which doesn't seem very effective. So i think the sheer number is a large part of the problem. Innocent people getting stopped without any good reason is part of what makes the stops harassing. The city has given cops free reign to employ this and encoruaged it. 44% of the stops are for furtive movements, which is pretty thin justification see http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/07/11/nyregion/20100711-stop-and-frisk.html for more stats. The next largest category is 'appear to be casing' which could be synonymous with hanging out on the street.
posted by borges at 9:50 PM on December 19, 2011


You've said pretty much literally that you think white people should not be hassled by the police as much black people are. I think it's safe to ignore what you have to say. Honestly what you said was really fucking stupid and pretty much indefensible

Then just ignore what I say then. I don't understand your compulsion to respond if you think what I am saying is dismissible and indefensible. I think you aren't so much interested in discussion as in grinding your axe. I don't care if you disagree with me, but there's no need to be don't be a jerk about it.
posted by borges at 9:56 PM on December 19, 2011


So now you're saying cops shouldn't have cameras so that people (that the cops like) can get away with breaking the law?

I am saying that there are community standards to policing that differ from place to place. Police work isn't just about making lots of arrests. And the neighbors should have some say in what the priorities are (e.g. Getting weapons off the street, reducing auto thefts, deterring assaults, etc.)
posted by borges at 10:07 PM on December 19, 2011


90% of the murders in NYC are committed by blacks or Hispanics
Only 2.1% are carrying any contraband (28% and 5% for white people).
We intercepted 13,709,211 prohibited items at our security checkpoints.

Oooh! Numbers! I like that, it makes it seem all scientific. Gotta collect them all. Gotta put them in my spreadsheet. Maybe I'll make a chart.

So I've got the numbers for my "Number required to give up the 4th amendment" column, can someone tell me the values for the "Number required to give up 1st amendment" column? Is that cheating? It's for Science, I swear.
posted by formless at 10:19 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Then just ignore what I say then. I don't understand your compulsion to respond if you think what I am saying is dismissible and indefensible.
Well, I want to make sure it's clear to everyone how disgusting and indefensible it is.
posted by delmoi at 11:45 PM on December 19, 2011


So I've got the numbers for my "Number required to give up the 4th amendment" column, can someone tell me the values for the "Number required to give up 1st amendment" column? Is that cheating? It's for Science, I swear.
I agree the TSA numbers are totally inflated. But even if you filter bullshit items from that 13 million figure, the TSA still finds a lot of stuff.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 PM on December 19, 2011


Well, I want to make sure it's clear to everyone how disgusting and indefensible it is.
posted by delmoi at 11:45 PM on December 19


Of course, by no means should you let the facts get in your way.
posted by borges at 12:57 AM on December 20, 2011


So I've got the numbers for my "Number required to give up the 4th amendment" column, can someone tell me the values for the "Number required to give up 1st amendment" column?

Well the hit rates are being quoted to examine the empirical question of whether black people are disproportionately affected by the policy, not whether it is a breach of a fundamental right. As it is, it appears from the numbers you so disparage really very likely that they are.

The subject of the discussion isn't really whether 4th amendment rights are being abridged (from my very limited understand of US constitutional law it appears that they are), but whether they are being abridged in a racist way. However, the racist implementation of the policy is itself indicative of its unconstitutional nature, by casting the existence of probable cause into gravest doubt.

Numbers can be used to illuminate as well as obscure the truth.
posted by howfar at 2:41 AM on December 20, 2011


I think this is a terrible idea, though it sounds good at first. While it might eliminate some of the worst excesses, I think this would actually lead to more harassment rather than less by taking any individual discretion or local standards out of the equation. -- borges
But here 'discretion' and 'local standards' means harassing minorities, instead of white people. After all, that's what police are using their current 'discretion' to do.
TL:DR; If we actually start recording the police, white people would start getting hassled by the police (they won't use their 'discretion' to avoid harassing them!) -- me
Are you so daft that you would consider that an improvement? -- borges
Here you say it's 'daft' to want white people to be treated by the police the same as black people, obviously this means you think it's 'smart' to want white people not to be hassled by the police, even if black people are.
Delmoi: First it seems like you are arguing for white people to be harassed more, because then at least that's 'fair.' Then, you seem to be saying you would like to see white people get harassed more, because if they were, you believe that black people would in turn be harassed less. -- borges

Right, I'm arguing for equal treatment. Which I suppose would mean white people would be harassed more then they currently are. You, on the other hand apparently think this would be a bad thing -- which obviously means you think the opposite would be a good thing, that it's OK if black people are harassed more often then the police so long as white people are not harassed very much.

And apparently the mechanism by which you think we should allow cops to harass black people but not whites is to prevent the police from accountability for their actions by video taping them.

Those are the facts, with regards to what you've been saying in this thread.

Oh, and then this gem from earlier:
No, because the users are idiots. The great majority of open use I see in my neighborhood (as well as around NYC) are young Black and Latino males. I rarely see anybody of another gender, race, or age group openly using on the street. So it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that the abundance of arrests would be represented by the that demo.
Never mind you were responding to an article about people being arrested who were not openly displaying anything until they were frisked. Apparently your massive experience with 'idiot' stoner Negros/Mexicans overrides the actual text of the article I linked too.

I'm just pointing out the obvious implication of your words here.
posted by delmoi at 2:44 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh and you never even bothered to answer the question: What exactly are people going to be doing that would lead them to get arrested if the police were filming people?
posted by delmoi at 2:47 AM on December 20, 2011


I had to step away from the thread last night, and am returning to respond to a disgusting slur against my character from Delmoi.

Nope, you're wrong. he's absolutely a racist. He's claimed black people are criminals so they need to be frisked 'for their own protection' and that they're all on welfare.

I said nothing of the sort. Claims were made that the police are themselves racist, and that the proof of such racism was a disproportionate focus on blacks and Hispanics in police stops. I pointed to statistics showing that a disproportionate number of violent crimes are committed by blacks and Hispanics, in neighborhoods predominated by blacks and Hispanics, therefore a greater police focus on those neighborhoods is not disproportionate at all.

The odd thing is that he claims their 'dependence' (i.e. the acceptance of welfare) which is why they have a bad relationship with the police. Which makes no sense unless you assume he thinks that police treat black people badly because they are upset that they're all on welfare, and thus they have a legitimate grievance and are therefore justified in treating them badly. Or something. It doesn't make much sense at all.

This is a gross misreading of my argument. Claims were made that blacks were more likely to commit crimes because they themselves have been harassed by police. No evidence was presented in support of this dubious claim. I offered a few other suggestions. One was the breakdown of the black family, which is well-documented. I borrowed the phrase "erosion of social solidarity" and pointed to long-term dependence on government benefits as a possible contributor to that erosion (though perhaps not as strong of a factor since its reform in the mid-1990s). Delmoi is just making up the part about the police being mad at welfare recipients. I also pointed to a failure of educational institutions. There are probably other reasons, including a lack of economic opportunity in certain neighborhoods (and nothing hurts investment in an area like violent crime).

Finally, who spends all their time digging up stats about that supposedly show all black people are criminals or they are all on welfare or whatever? Racists, duh.

This is vile. It's heads I win tails you lose. The police are racists for targeting minorities... but if you point out that more crime is committed by minorities, with minority victims, in minority neighborhoods... well, you must be a racist for taking the time to look into it. So our solution must be to start harassing white people for no reason, just to balance the scales. Or something. It doesn't make much sense at all.

And for the record, I think it's horrible that innocent blacks get harassed by the police. I've already called for more oversight and judicial review of "stop and frisks." At the same time, I think it's also horrible that innocent blacks are disproportionately victims of crime.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:32 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Innocent black people are, of course, also disproportionately victims of the police, which is kind of where we came in. The rest is MeTa, as far as I can tell.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:44 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


BobbyVan: “Claims were made that the police are themselves racist, and that the proof of such racism was a disproportionate focus on blacks and Hispanics in police stops... And for the record, I think it's horrible that innocent blacks get harassed by the police. I've already called for more oversight and judicial review of ‘stop and frisks.’”

So we come back around to the point that you agree wholeheartedly with the linked article – which, I'll note for those who haven't read it, does not claim that the police are racist, and which only purports to be a record of one man's experience with the police and the impact it's had on him and his trust of the institution.

Where exactly were these claims that you say were made? They were made in response to the inflammatory article by Heather MacDonald which you posted as the first comment in this thread. You act as though you were simply responding to charges that the police are racist; but it's clear that, in the beginning, you weren't, since no such charges were made in the main link, and since your comment was the first one here. And it's completely understandable that many of us thought you are wholly in favor of 'stop and frisk' policies. In the beginning, this wasn't about apparent racism in the police department at all, anyway.

In the beginning, this is what happened: hermitosis posted a very cogent and thoughtful account of one person's unhappy experience with 'stop and frisks;' and you posted an incendiary defense of 'stop and frisks.' The clear implication you laid down at the beginning of the thread was that this was okay, and this man's experience isn't a valid criticism of the policy.

Regardless of how we feel about anything else, does it make sense, in that light, that hermitosis and a number of other people here would be upset at you for derailing this thread?
posted by koeselitz at 8:32 AM on December 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'll note for those who haven't read it, does not claim that the police are racist, and which only purports to be a record of one man's experience with the police and the impact it's had on him and his trust of the institution.

That is simply not true, koeselitz.

FTA: In half the stops police cite the vague “furtive movements” as the reason for the stop. Maybe black and brown people just look more furtive, whatever that means. These stops are part of a larger, more widespread problem — a racially discriminatory system of stop-and-frisk in the N.Y.P.D. The police use the excuse that they’re fighting crime to continue the practice, but no one has ever actually proved that it reduces crime or makes the city safer. Those of us who live in the neighborhoods where stop-and-frisks are a basic fact of daily life don’t feel safer as a result.

In the section above, the author goes well beyond recording his personal experience. He makes several broad claims. First, he sarcastically intimates that the police are racially biased ("maybe black and brown people just look more furtive"). Then, he makes an outright allegation that the NYPD is enforcing a "racially discriminatory system." He then argues that the system does not exist to fight crime (it's an "excuse"), implying that there is another, more nefarious motivation behind the stops.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:46 AM on December 20, 2011


Regardless of how we feel about anything else, does it make sense, in that light, that hermitosis and a number of other people here would be upset at you for derailing this thread?

So koeselitz and hermitosis: now does it makes sense, in light of the author's claim in the FPP that the police are harassing young black and Hispanic men "for no reason other than the color of their skin" why I posted the MacDonald piece, which puts forth the counterclaim that "you can either have policing that goes after crime and saves minority lives, or you can have policing that mirrors the city’s census data. You cannot have both."?
posted by BobbyVan at 8:57 AM on December 20, 2011


BobbyVan: “In the section above, the author goes well beyond recording his personal experience. He makes several broad claims. First, he sarcastically intimates that the police are racially biased (‘maybe black and brown people just look more furtive’). Then, he makes an outright allegation that the NYPD is enforcing a ‘racially discriminatory system.’ He then argues that the system does not exist to fight crime (it's an ‘excuse’), implying that there is another, more nefarious motivation behind the stops.”

But there's nothing here that anybody, even MacDonald, disputes! Doesn't everyone here agree that the "stop and frisk" policy, as it's applied now, is racially discriminatory? It disproportionately is performed blacks and latinos, specifically because they are more likely to be victims or perpetrators of crime. You've said as much yourself. One can defend this by saying that it's more just or reduces crime or protects minorities; but the fact is that it is flatly racially discriminatory. Regardless of whatever baggage the term "discriminatory" might be laden with, this is in fact the technical and literal definition of the word.
posted by koeselitz at 9:03 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


He then argues that the system does not exist to fight crime (it's an "excuse"), implying that there is another, more nefarious motivation behind the stops.

An excuse may or may not be legitimate, just as discrimination may or may not be. You can paraphrase what he says as "this is their excuse, but there is no evidence that it is valid excuse", without interpreting that as stating that they do not themselves believe their excuse.
posted by howfar at 9:08 AM on December 20, 2011


Doesn't everyone here agree that the "stop and frisk" policy, as it's applied now, is racially discriminatory?

Both MacDonald and I would say that the "stop and frisk" policy has a disparate impact on minorities, given that it's more heavily enforced in high-crime neighborhoods, which themselves happen to have a greater concentration of minorities. So the racial element is incidental, not central, to "stop and frisk." Calling it racially discriminatory implies a racial motivation.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:09 AM on December 20, 2011


I'm leaving now for holiday travel, so don't anyone think I'm ignoring you guys. I'm sure I'll be checking back in periodically...
posted by BobbyVan at 9:14 AM on December 20, 2011


it's more heavily enforced in high-crime neighborhoods, which themselves happen to have a greater concentration of minorities

That seems to me to be an empirically testable statement. Hypothesis: White people who live in high crime neighbourhoods are as likely to be stopped and frisked as their black neighbours. Do you have access to an analysis of the data that supports or disprove this hypothesis? Even with my limited stats skills, I could probably knock one up from the RAND raw data, if that's what it takes to settle the point.
posted by howfar at 9:15 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


BobbyVan: “Both MacDonald and I would say that the "stop and frisk" policy has a disparate impact on minorities, given that it's more heavily enforced in high-crime neighborhoods, which themselves happen to have a greater concentration of minorities. So the racial element is incidental, not central, to ‘stop and frisk.’ Calling it racially discriminatory implies a racial motivation.”

But – and we've been through this, too – the statistics show that, even in neighborhoods which are low-crime, and where minorities are very rare relatively, those minorities are still stopped in a much higher proportion than white people. There is not necessarily a racist motivation, but race clearly plays a part here. This is a form of profiling, pure and simple.

howfar: “That seems to me to be an empirically testable statement. Hypothesis: White people who live in high crime neighbourhoods are as likely to be stopped and frisked as their black neighbours. Do you have access to an analysis of the data that supports or disprove this hypothesis? Even with my limited stats skills, I could probably knock one up from the RAND raw data, if that's what it takes to settle the point.”

It has been empirically tested:
Given that precincts with elevated crime rates have predominately minority populations, some disparity is to be expected. Indeed, it has been hypothesized that higher crime rates in minority communities fully explain the higher rate at which minorities are “stopped” in New York City. To test this hypothesis, the OAG sought to determine the extent to which differences in crime rates -- as computed by applying race-specific population counts by precinct to race-specific arrest counts by precinct -- explain the different rates at which minorities and whites were “stopped” during the covered period. As discussed below, the various regression analyses conducted by the OAG -- with the aid of Columbia University’s Center for Violence Research and Prevention -- demonstrate that differing crime rates alone cannot fully explain the increased rate of “stops” of minorities. [emphasis mine]
posted by koeselitz at 9:24 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is vile. It's heads I win tails you lose. The police are racists for targeting minorities... but if you point out that more crime is committed by minorities, with minority victims, in minority neighborhoods... well, you must be a racist for taking the time to look into it.
If the police are harassing innocent black people due to no reason but the color of their skin, then yes it's racist, and it's still racist if you dig up crime stats. The argument is essentially, well, black people are more likely to be criminals, so of course the police should target them for stop and frisks! That's an obviously racist thing to say, since the vast majority (about 95%) of the black people frisked aren't doing anything illegal - and when they are are they're more likely to be arrested, compared to whites who are more likely to get a summons.

All the statistics show African Americans are targeted at a greater rate, even after 'massaging' the data the RAND wasn't able to hide it.

But your argument in the thread was black people are all criminals who hate the cops because they're all on welfare, so they deserve collective punishment.

Again, it's an argument that only a racist, such as yourself, would make.
posted by delmoi at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


It has been empirically tested:
...this Report, which presents data reflecting activity during 1998 and the first three months of 1999...
delmoi, I have nothing more to say to you.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:26 AM on December 20, 2011


But here 'discretion' and 'local standards' means harassing minorities, instead of white people. After all, that's what police are using their current 'discretion' to do.

Actually, what I have been arguing is that using some discretion would mean not harassing minorities and doing fewer of these stops. The NYT has done a number of stories on the stops and have established that police are stopping more people than they should and that it is driven by quotas. To meet quotas, they will stop people they know aren't causing any trouble.

Here you say it's 'daft' to want white people to be treated by the police the same as black people, obviously this means you think it's 'smart' to want white people not to be hassled by the police, even if black people are.

No, I think it's vindictive and stupid to fight harassment by increasing harassment.

Right, I'm arguing for equal treatment. Which I suppose would mean white people would be harassed more then they currently are. You, on the other hand apparently think this would be a bad thing -- which obviously means you think the opposite would be a good thing, that it's OK if black people are harassed more often then the police so long as white people are not harassed very much.

No, that isn't obvious at all. And for somebody who accuses me of twisted logic, you really ought to look at your own. I think there should be overall fewer stops and the stops should only be used when it makes sense. Perhaps Reasonable Suspicion needs to be better defined. And the stops should only be used where it might actually prevent crime.

And apparently the mechanism by which you think we should allow cops to harass black people but not whites is to prevent the police from accountability for their actions by video taping them.

Again, a really weird logical leap. I think the cameras are more for the cop's protection than the citizen's. Cameras will not stop the cops from stopping and frisking, but I agree that it might make them act more polite during the process. The police do let a lot of stuff ride, at least in my neighborhood. I think if they had cameras and knew they could score a conviction (all the evidence is on camera) that they would be inclined to press. Then we can introduce quotas for that too. And there are serious privacy issues with the cameras. What's admissible as evidence, what isn't, etc.

Never mind you were responding to an article about people being arrested who were not openly displaying anything until they were frisked. Apparently your massive experience with 'idiot' stoner Negros/Mexicans overrides the actual text of the article I linked too.

You brought up the disparity in arrests for pot. If you get arrested for pot in NYC, most likely you are openly using or you are a dealer. And if you are openly using, you are kind of an idiot.

I'm just pointing out the obvious implication of your words here.

What you've done is spun a bunch of sophistry and made sh*t up.
posted by borges at 11:46 AM on December 20, 2011


You know I want to get in a time machine and go back to Watts in '65. I would plainly tell everyone to calm down, and that in 2011 it's totally cool, Black people have equal rights, but yeah they still get pulled over and frisked for no apparent reason. I'll politely explain it's because of where they live and not because they're black.

That should put a stop to the riots.

Then I would travel to LA in 1992. I would politely explain to everyone that in 2011 it's still fine to give out a beating every once in a while, because by and large they are not taped while doing it. But even if a tape of a beating does pop up *wink wink* then don't worry about it. He deserved it because of where he lives.

That should put a stop to the riots.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:42 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, BobbyVan – you're saying that 1998 and 1999 was a different, more racist time in the history of the NYPD, and those days are long gone? Or what? I don't really get what you mean.
posted by koeselitz at 2:16 PM on December 20, 2011


No, I think it's vindictive and stupid to fight harassment by increasing harassment.
First of all, I never said harassment should be increased, I said people should be treated equally. Not all contact with the police counts as 'harassment', if they wore cameras it's likely that they would be much more polite to everyone. It would be a lot better if black people were treated the way white people are treated now. But everyone should be treated the same.

If there were some 'fixed quantity' of harassment, treating everyone equally wouldn't increase the amount but rather distribute it more evenly. Although I actually believe cameras would decrease the amount of harassment, you seem to be saying it would increase overall, which is so ridiculous it's hard to really believe that's what you thought.

No matter how you spin it, there is simply no way to argue that treating black people worse then white people isn't racist. If you think treating black people worse then white people keeps the total amount of police harassment low, and that it's a good thing, then you're simply a racist. I mean, what else can you say?

Fundamentally we're coming at this from different premises: You apparently think racism is OK, that it's OK if the police discriminate against blacks if it keeps them nice to white people. I don't. You don't seem to want to say that explicitly, but it's the only way what you say makes sense.

Look at this sentance:
No, I think it's vindictive and stupid to fight harassment by increasing harassment.
Clearly you mean: It's stupid to fight harassment by increasing harassment against white people

If that's the case, then clearly think it's better if black people are harassed more then them. There is no other way to parse that. And in fact it's, 'vindictive and stupid' to treat white people the same way black people and Latinos are treated.

Wanting to treat African Americans and white people differently is pretty much the definition of racial discrimination.
And apparently the mechanism by which you think we should allow cops to harass black people but not whites is to prevent the police from accountability for their actions by video taping them. -- me
Again, a really weird logical leap.
That is literally what you said.
I think this is a terrible idea, though it sounds good at first. While it might eliminate some of the worst excesses, I think this would actually lead to more harassment rather than less by taking any individual discretion or local standards out of the equation.
Quite clearly, you want the police not to have to account for their preferential, 'nice' treatment of white people -- which apparently involves not arresting them for breaking the law in such a way that it would be obvious if you saw a video of them in public. You never specified exactly what it is these people would be doing that they ought to be arrested but aren't, which isn't surprising since it's a nonsensical argument.

This would obviously make police unaccountable for their actual harassment of black people.

You say you don't want the police to be forced to bother white people at the expense of allowing them to unaccountably mistreat black people, as that would, in your mind be a better situation.

Like I said, pretty racist.
posted by delmoi at 6:23 PM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well I'm pretty racist then. Thanks for helping me figure that out.
posted by borges at 8:54 AM on December 21, 2011


Well I'm pretty racist then. Thanks for helping me figure that out.
Consider yourself enlightened.
posted by delmoi at 9:45 AM on December 21, 2011


Great - now, how do you propose that they make the the stops equal, other than the use of cameras?
posted by borges at 9:56 AM on December 21, 2011


If you get arrested for pot in NYC, most likely you are openly using or you are a dealer. And if you are openly using, you are kind of an idiot.

Not true. If you are already a target of suspicion for nonexistent "furtive movements" and are carrying pot anywhere on your person, that same suspicion will make you into an automatic infringer of multiple drug laws.

This is one reason that, as an effete white dude who has made it to middle age without EVER being stopped by the police for ANYTHING despite being quite fringey (outside of protests, that is), I also NEVER allow myself drugs. Because I like to keep in my mind the idea (idealistic though it is) that I am no different from those around me. And if I were black, I would be in constant danger of incarceration if I did.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:51 AM on December 21, 2011


That is oft-repeated, but I haven't ever seen a shred of evidence that it is true. Seen plenty of people get nabbed for open use, though.
posted by borges at 3:44 PM on December 21, 2011


borges: “If you get arrested for pot in NYC, most likely you are openly using or you are a dealer. And if you are openly using, you are kind of an idiot.”

This, at least, is flatly false, and the police department's statistics demonstrate this clearly. Just pulling a region out of the list at random, in the Bronx in 2010 only 50% of drug misdemeanor arrests (the general category of "arrested for pot," I think) actually led to a conviction at all.

By the way, I know some cops. And most of them would object strenuously to your implication that arrests and convictions are virtually the same. It's their job to try to arrest people based on evidence and facts, but in this country we have a process whereby guilt or innocence is determined. That process protects everybody, even (maybe especially) cops, so most actual police officers will tell you that this "if you were arrested, you're probably guilty" stuff just isn't how the system works. It's not their job to determine if people are guilty. It's their job to read the facts as well as they can, make a preliminary estimation, and arrest people if the chances seem high that they committed a crime. They're still innocent from the moment the cuffs go on until the moment the judge says "guilty."

posted by koeselitz at 4:20 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The stuff you linked to is shows all misdemeanor arrests. And I did say arrested, not convicted - I do understand the difference.

What I mean is that nobody seems to have produced the numbers for simple possession conditioned on a stop and frisk. But they say most are.

2010 Stops Citywide: 601,055
2010 Arrest Rate ~6%
2010 Arrests 36,000
2010 Simple Possession Arrests Citywide: 50,383

The arrest rate may be higher - couldn't find the 2010 rate, but if it is correct, then all arrests from stop and frisks (every possible offense) amounts to 36,000.
posted by borges at 5:14 PM on December 21, 2011


Jordan Miles from Pittsburgh, beaten by police over a Mt. Dew bottle.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 7:37 PM on December 21, 2011


borges: How in the world does that mean that most people arrested for pot in New York City are using openly or dealers?
posted by koeselitz at 7:43 PM on December 21, 2011


Local Cops Ready for War With Homeland Security-Funded Military Weapons
posted by homunculus at 8:14 PM on December 21, 2011


Oops, that should have gone here.
posted by homunculus at 9:03 PM on December 21, 2011


By the definition, simple possession means you are using or displaying. The people who are tricked into displaying are by definition in the stop and frisk category.
posted by borges at 9:19 PM on December 21, 2011


That is oft-repeated, but I haven't ever seen a shred of evidence that it is true. Seen plenty of people get nabbed for open use, though.
Since you're apparently too lazy to click links
Organizers called out Bloomberg’s hypocrisy, noting that when Bloomberg ran for Mayor in 2001, he admitted to having smoked and enjoyed marijuana, but continues to support using loopholes in the stop-and-frisk law to orchestrate mass arrests of young people of color for small amounts of marijuana. Under Mayor Bloomberg, marijuana arrests have surpassed those under Mayors Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani combined. Despite a tight budget and the stripping of federally funded social programs and education, the city pumped $75 million into arresting more than 50,000 people for small amounts of marijuana last year.

Spokesman for the Drug Policy Alliance Tony Newman called the arrests “a numbers game” that allows officers to clock in overtime and make easy, low-level arrests to add to the war on drug statistics.

The disparity of arrests by race and socioeconomic status is alarming. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Blacks and Latinos make up 86% of marijuana arrests in New York City, despite whites use of the drug at a higher rate. Last year, in Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito’s Precinct 25 (East Harlem), police arrested 1,069 people for marijuana, while only 34 were arrested in Mayor Bloomberg’s neighborhood, Precinct 19 (Upper East Side), despite the neighborhood (and Central Park’s) reputation for being a smoke-spot.

...

Mark-Viverito, who attended the rally, said she is committed to revisiting the unjust policy. “When you see the disparity in numbers of people who are being arrested, it’s really an unjust policy and a corruption of the original intent of the law,” she said. “That law was intended to decriminalize marijuana, and they have been corrupting it and incarcerating our kids, criminalizing our young people.”

Speaking at the action on behalf of VOCAL-NY, Bobby Tolbert painted a picture of the policy to attendees and passers-by. “The kids are in the corner. One of them has a bag of his weed in his pocket. Police officer pulls up and says up against the wall. Empty your pockets,” Tolbert said. “Now, it is against the law to openly display marijuana when it is burning or in open display, but if police stop you and ask you to open your pocket, once that bag of weed falls out your pocket that is open display and you are subject to arrest.”
But, no we should take your word for it that you see wild negros smoking weed in public all the time so obviously every black person ever arrested was 'openly displaying' and that anyone who claims police arrest people for 'open display' after forcing them to empty their pockets is lying. Or something.

Any stop and frisk that results in an arrest for marijuana 'open display' would, obviously, be a result of this loophole. If they were displaying openly, they wouldn't need to do a stop and frisk to find the weed. If they didn't do a stop and frisk, they wouldn't have been displaying openly.

But apparently in your mind it's OK that 86% of drug arrests are of blacks and latinos, even though white people smoke it more because, you know, we need 'discretion' and 'local standards' to keep the streets safe for white people, pot smokers or not.
posted by delmoi at 3:54 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


In other news Bloomberg calls the NYPD "My Own Army"
posted by delmoi at 3:55 AM on December 22, 2011


What I mean is that nobody seems to have produced the numbers for simple possession conditioned on a stop and frisk. But they say most are.
borges says this, then does 'math' gives a supremum of 71.4% for the number of people arrested on marijuana charges who were arrested via stop and frisk, but he doesn't bother to include that figure...
posted by delmoi at 7:06 AM on December 22, 2011


But, no we should take your word for it that you see wild negros smoking weed in public all the time so obviously every black person ever arrested was 'openly displaying' and that anyone who claims police arrest people for 'open display' after forcing them to empty their pockets is lying. Or something.

Sorry, you are entirely wrong here. I said: "The people who are tricked into displaying are by definition in the stop and frisk category." Meaning coerced into open display resulting in an arrest. If they were coerced, they were not lying. So you just didn't read what I wrote.

The NYCLU estimates (but does not provide a rigorous basis for) the percentage of coerced open display charges is more like 2/3-3/4 of simple possession stemming from a stop and frisk. So, in fact, even the NYCLU does not believe that every simple possession stemming from a stop the result of the person being coerced into open display.

At least (100-72) 28% of simple possession are the result of open display. Since the 36,000 arrests includes arrests for all offenses, it's not really clear at all how many arrests for simple possession charges stem from a stop and frisk. But, plenty of people have said, here and elsewhere that most of the simple possession charges stem from a stop and frisk and from a coerced open display.

But apparently in your mind it's OK that 86% of drug arrests are of blacks and latinos, even though white people smoke it more

Actually, I don't think it is ok for the police to stop people and coerce them into open display and then arrest them.
posted by borges at 11:34 AM on December 22, 2011


Out of curiosity, what is the position on "public display" while under arrest? Was any proportion of that 28% under arrest for another reason at the time of the display?
posted by howfar at 5:46 PM on December 22, 2011


You have to show it for it to be open display. But if they take it off you, it's technically not open display.
posted by borges at 9:33 PM on December 22, 2011


Yes. However it is plain that open display can occur if the drug is produced to order. What is not immediately clear to me is whether possession is ever being listed as a ground for arrest in circumstances where the suspect was already under arrest at the time of the display.

It is hardly of great importance. What is clear is that black people are disproportionately being arrested for possession by New York police officers abiding by nothing more than the letter of the law. However many thousands that is annually, it is of grave concern for anyone concerned about either civil rights or racial discrimination.
posted by howfar at 1:44 AM on December 23, 2011


In news today,yet another case where a cop (Canadian, in this case) beat up an innocent, private citizen and would have added charges to the injuries if it weren't for those meddling cameras.

Police officers MUST be monitored. They have too much power over private citizens and have proven time and time again that they're all too willing to abuse that power. This needs to get on the national radar.
posted by LordSludge at 6:03 AM on December 23, 2011


Since possession (on your person) of a small amount of pot is not a crime it isn't grounds for arrest.
posted by borges at 10:16 AM on December 23, 2011


Yes. That has nothing to do with my point. We can't rely on the 28% minimum figure because it is generated by the assumption that all recorded arrests for marijuana possession occur in one of two ways, when there are in fact other potential ways for such arrests to occur. When looking at problems like this analysis is no substitute for data.
posted by howfar at 5:58 PM on December 23, 2011


There aren't. Either you show it on request or you were caught showing it.
posted by borges at 8:33 PM on December 23, 2011


...or it was planted on you, or the officer assume you had pot, arrested you for open display, and then used the fact that there it did turn out you had some in the bottom of your pocket as 'proof' - I mean, if you weren't showing it, how else would he have know?

(Hint: he didn't.)
posted by Dysk at 5:43 AM on December 24, 2011


There aren't. Either you show it on request or you were caught showing it.

But not all cases of showing on request will necessarily fall into the stop and frisk category, and it is essential for your maths that they do. If I get nicked for brawling, and I'm told to turn out my pockets, a request I comply with, would I find possession of cannabis added to the grounds for arrest? Without data we don't know.
posted by howfar at 5:49 AM on December 24, 2011


Meanwhile, in Britain: Stop and search 'racial profiling' by police on the increase, claims study
posted by homunculus at 9:33 AM on January 15, 2012


NYPD Developing Van-Mounted Body Scanners To Detect Concealed Weapons On The Street
posted by homunculus at 3:56 PM on January 17, 2012


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