From Black Voices — F–k tha Police, coming straight from the underground, a young brother got it bad cuz I’m brown. — Ice Cube
Newsflash: a lot of people – law abiding citizens who happen to be African Americans – feel this way. I cannot begin to tell you how many of my friends, associates, colleagues do not f–k with the po-lice. Lawyers, doctors (even PhDs — Henry Louis Gates, ahem) would like to stay as far away as possible from the cops. But before you pigeonhole me, let me tell you about a recent experience with the boyz in blue.
Not too long ago, my 14-year-old daughter was walking with a group of friends – there were three boys and three girls in all – one summer evening. It was not yet dark, and a police cruiser followed the group for a block. Suddenly, two police officers jumped out of the car and the teens to “go over there” — meaning to get on a wall — and then asked them “Who they were going to fight?” Apparently, there had been a shooting two blocks over, but frankly, rolling up on a bunch of kids during the light of day is at best lazy policing, at worst, harassment. Oh yeah, I’m sure the boys in the group fit the description: Young. African-American.
I was livid that my daughter, who is an A student and who has never even been in a fight, would have to endure this type of treatment in her own neighborhood. In fact, a lot of parents just tell their sons not to even move if you are stopped by the police, lest you be shot. It is stories like these that are far too common.
Yesterday, statistics were released that NYC police made nearly 170,000 “stop and frisks” in the last three months. African Americans and Hispanics, who each make up about 27% of the city’s population were stopped 88% of the time by police. Yet, of these stops, only 7% resulted in arrests. Last year, more than half a million people in total were stopped – 90% of whom were innocent.
Up until last month, if you were stopped, your name would be stored in an electronic database, along with all of the other criminals of the city. Thankfully, New York governor David Paterson saw this as a violation of the stoppee’s civil rights and with a new law, actually practiced the American principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”
Being stopped for merely walking down the street is humiliating enough. To be treated as if you’ve already committed a crime just adds insult to injury. The nastiness, contempt and venom often associated with these “stop and frisks” is unnecessary — where is it all coming from?