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Monday, June 4, 2012

Governor Cuomo Wants to End a Racist Policy

Posted by on Mon, Jun 4, 2012 at 11:17 AM

The way police enforce marijuana laws in New York City amounts to little more than arresting people for the color of their skin. Technically, possession is decriminalized there. But displaying pot in public is not. So police routinely—at a rate of tens of thousands a year—stop people on the street, frisk them, and tell them to empty their pockets. And when people pull out that little bag of pot, blam, they're arrested. (Refusing to cooperate with cops can also get you booked in jail, so you're screwed either way.) This has made marijuana in plain view the most common arrest in New York City, with cops racking up about 50,000 a year, and black and Hispanic suspects arrested at proportions beyond their segments of the population. Even worse, "black and Hispanic MPV arrestees have been more likely to be detained prior to arraignment, convicted, and sentenced to jail than their white counterparts," this study explains. Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani are staunchly in favor of keeping up this practice.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, reaching down from Albany and into the affairs of New York City, is not.

New York Times:

The governor will call for the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view, administration officials said. [...]

Reducing the impact of the Bloomberg administration’s stop-and-frisk policy has been a top priority of lawmakers from minority neighborhoods, who have urged Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, to pay more attention to the needs of their communities. The lawmakers argue that young men found with small amounts of marijuana are being needlessly funneled into the criminal justice system and have difficulty finding jobs as a result.

For years, this crap has been tolerated because, hey, it's pot. No politician can come to the defense of the stoners. But pot laws were never about pot—the pot has always been an incidental criminal offense. Criminalizing pot in the 1930s was designed to cast a net so broad that police could ensnare anyone they feel like targeting.

But stop-and-frisk practices have become toxic, and pot decriminalization has become nontoxic.

Cuomo, bless his soul, has a nose for the moment that support is on his side for ending bigoted policy—like marriage discrimination—and pushing these anachronistic, and genuinely repugnant, laws off the books. Good for him. Hopefully he's a national bellwether for politicians who can admit that prohibition is, and always has been, a proxy for racism.

 

Comments (37) RSS

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Urgutha Forka 1
We can't give up the war on drugs now! Not when we're so close to winning!
Posted by Urgutha Forka on June 4, 2012 at 11:30 AM · Report this
2
Actually stop-and-frisk was instrumental in cleaning up what was a cesspool of a city in the early 90's
Posted by Reader01 on June 4, 2012 at 11:45 AM · Report this
wilbur@work 3
well said, Dominic.
Posted by wilbur@work on June 4, 2012 at 11:48 AM · Report this
4
@2, that doesn't make it legal or right or non-discriminatory. In 5 years in the city I've never been stopped by a cop. Even when I lived in Harlem and walked home through notoriously dangerous parks after dark. Not when I lived in Bushwick on a street rife with crack dens. I've never been stopped because I am white, because I am a woman, and because I dress fairly well. The people the cops are stopping are being profiled - they were not doing anything wrong. This is a problem.
Posted by moosefan on June 4, 2012 at 11:57 AM · Report this
5
@2: Got any data to back that up? Of course not.
Posted by MR M on June 4, 2012 at 12:05 PM · Report this
6
I agree that locking people up over a little bit of weed is overkill, but is the policy racist? I don't think so. The purpose of stop and frisk is to reduce violence by taking unlicensed handguns off the street. In 2010 93% of NYC homicide suspects were black or latino. In that year non-hispanic whites made up 33% of the city's population but committed only 4% of the murders. Asians made up 12% of the population but were responsible for only 3% of murders.

You can read more about that here:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/p…

and here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic…

In light of those statistics can you see why the NYPD might focus it's efforts at violence reduction on blacks and latinos?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on June 4, 2012 at 12:07 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 7
yes, it is racist.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on June 4, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
8
@5 see @6
Posted by Reader01 on June 4, 2012 at 12:17 PM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 9
To be fair, the majority of police procedure and investigation is profiling. You have a crime and a location, and you profile people based upon these aspects, and what past experience has taught.

When a child is abducted, you look for middle aged white guys who knew the kid, not young latinos who live in a different neighborhood. Because statistics teach you that you are wasting your time looking for other types of people without additional significant evidence.

@4: You are not stopped on the street solely because of your race/gender, but because police know that smartly dressed women do not cause trouble on the street. However, young people dressed as thugs often do. Stopping you would be a waste of time.

"Random" stop and frisk is a violation of basic civil rights if you ask me, but let us not forget that all police/investigative work is based upon profiling, racial and otherwise. It simply has to be.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on June 4, 2012 at 12:17 PM · Report this
10
@4 In New York City non-hispanic whites make up only 4% of all murder suspects. Women make up only 10% of all murder suspects. So did the cops never stop you because they are racist, or were they just using common sense?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on June 4, 2012 at 12:18 PM · Report this
11
@9, But this is about random stop and frisk. It's not about having a suspect in a specific crime that the cops are looking into. It's about going to neighborhoods like Harlem and Bushwick and stopping people because they're black and latino.
@10, we're not talking about cops looking for a suspect in a crime. We're talking about cops stopping and frisking people at random. And then, after forcing someone to empty their pockets, arresting them for possessing marijuana in public. It was not criminal for the marijuana to be in their pocket but out in public it's suddenly a crime. It's like having a cop walk into a bar, find a drunk person, escort them out and then arrest them for being drunk in public. It's bullshit.

And by-the-by I'd be a lot less suspicious of a black guy in Harlem than a young white woman. Because what the fuck is a young white woman doing alone in a neighborhood that's 90+% black and latino at 2AM?
Posted by moosefan on June 4, 2012 at 12:34 PM · Report this
lark 12
Dominic,
I agree that Cuomo should decriminalize "small amounts of marijuana in public view". Fine. But, I don't believe the current policy racist. What @6 & @9 said was accurate. Indeed, the police profile but it is done for a practical (seeking a suspect) reason than a racially motivated one.
Posted by lark on June 4, 2012 at 12:37 PM · Report this
NaFun 13
"In 2002, when [former police commisioner and new stop and frisk proponent] Mr. Kelly last took office, officers stopped 97,296 New Yorkers and the city reported 587 homicides. Last year, those numbers were 685,724 and 532."

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/15/nyregi…

In 2011, 685,724 New Yorkers were stopped by the police.
605,328 were totally innocent (88 percent).
350,743 were black (53 percent).
223,740 were Latino (34 percent).
61,805 were white (9 percent).
341,581 were aged 14-24 (51 percent).

http://www.nyclu.org/issues/racial-justi…

“There is no evidence that stop and frisk is lowering or suppressing the murder rate in New York City,” said Chris Dunn, spokesman for the NYCLU, in a statement. “Murders have dropped steadily since 1990.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/13…

http://www.nyclu.org/news/nyclu-analysis…
Posted by NaFun http://www.dancesafe.org on June 4, 2012 at 12:37 PM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 14
@11: Please read the last paragraph of my comment. My point was that it is not because of profiling that this law is bullshit, but because it gives cops way too much unchecked power, and violates the constitution.

It seems the police are not profiling properly, and simply stopping people solely based on race. Your are certainly correct in your marijuana/drunk person analogy however. Total bullshit.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on June 4, 2012 at 12:40 PM · Report this
15
Just to play devil's advocate, are any of you limousine liberals comfortable with walking through an all-black neighborhood, particularly at night? Do you really think that all the problems of black people are the result of white people? Hence blacks would be nothing but model citizens if not for overpolicing, allegedly racist social policies (in spite of programs like affirmative action), and widespread poverty?

As an aside, the dissolution of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe and the running out of the whites, seems to have had counterproductive results for that nation. White guilt seems to make this crime seem more acceptable. Had the pattern been reversed, well, there would have been a great deal more international clamoring.

Under this light, using the drug war as a way to control black crime seems totally plausible and perhaps even reasonable. And I don't know how else to put this, but racially diverse, cosmopolitan societies such as our own seem doomed to ridiculously high crime rates relative to other developed nations and prone to continuous civil upheaval and racial rioting. Following WWI, many of the world's nations were redrawn predominantly according to ethnic boundaries because, it seems, the world's leaders assumed different ethnic groups have a poor track record of getting along. Now were they totally off-base or was this in any way based upon some history or experience?

Here's a good one, while on that topic. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, despite having an illustrious history replete both with very effective Lithuanian and Polish kings, seems to have inculcated no mutual love between these two ethnic groups, as Poles and Lithuanians absolutely loathe each other today. Perhaps some of this is due to the Polish-Soviet War of the post-WWI period, but I can't imagine that being the sole reason.

It's nice to see that the conservatives are much better these days at propaganda than our contemporaneous liberals. More reasonably, though, this is just the natural pushback to some the more obscene excesses of sixties radicalism. If there was a god, I would imagine he would be a god of dark humor, hurling epidemic disease upon the sexually liberal and crack-cocaine upon already poverty-stricken African-Americans.
More...
Posted by Central Scrutinizer on June 4, 2012 at 12:45 PM · Report this
16
@15
"Just to play devil's advocate, are any of you limousine liberals comfortable with walking through an all-black neighborhood, particularly at night?"

I have done so in the past without any problems.

Oh, you're trying to conflate "high crime" with "all-black".
Too bad for you they aren't the same.

High crime neighborhoods tend towards lower property values which make the accessible to lower economic classes.
Unfortunately, due to racism, a lot of blacks are in the lower economic classes and have to live in neighborhoods with high crime rates.

@10
Yes, I think you've made your opinions quite clear in previous threads.

"Perhaps middle class black commit fewer crimes because it is harder for them to get away with stuff. "

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Comme…
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on June 4, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Report this
17
"violates the constitution."

things I like =/= constitutional
things I don't like =/= unconstitutional

hth
Posted by Reader01 on June 4, 2012 at 12:59 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 18
I'd be a lot less suspicious of a black guy in Harlem than a young white woman. Because what the fuck is a young white woman doing alone in a neighborhood that's 90+% black and latino at 2AM?


You're funny. Harlem has been gentrifying for over a decade.
Posted by keshmeshi on June 4, 2012 at 1:07 PM · Report this
19
Another option for Cuomo: change the law so that marijuana exposed on the command of a police officer does not count as "marijuana in public view."

And @2 - Pretty much every American city was a cesspool in the early 90s. Since then crime has fallen all over the country, regardless of whether the city you're looking at had a stop-and-frisk policy or not. So no, it wasn't "instrumental", it only appears that way if you set your focus too narrow.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on June 4, 2012 at 1:10 PM · Report this
20
@14, yes, I saw that you have a problem with the so-called "random" stop and frisk searches that happen. And I appreciate that. I also appreciate the need for profiling when a crime has been committed. However, my point about never having been stopped was that these "random" stop and frisks are not, in fact, random. Otherwise sometime in 5 years in the city I would have been stopped. My point was that police are stopping people who are not suspects in crimes based on their race, gender and clothing. The stop and frisk is unconstitutional in the first place and its implementation is racist, sexist and elitist.
Posted by moosefan on June 4, 2012 at 1:13 PM · Report this
21
"And @2 - Pretty much every American city was a cesspool in the early 90s. Since then crime has fallen all over the country, regardless of whether the city you're looking at had a stop-and-frisk policy or not. So no, it wasn't "instrumental", it only appears that way if you set your focus too narrow."

And NYC's drop was disproportionately large even in the face of that. Stop-and-frisk, Compstat, and actually bothering with the little things (like frisking fare jumpers) made a huge difference.
Posted by Reader01 on June 4, 2012 at 1:23 PM · Report this
22
@18, I know it's been gentrifying. I lived there for two years. It's still predominately black and latino. And the white people who live there are not often wandering the streets late at night on their own. Particularly not the women. Where I lived there were few enough white people that I was stared at every time I stepped out of my building. Every time I did my laundry. Every time I stopped in the bodega. Every time I walked to the subway. And especially when I'd do these things with my roommate, a black man. I got looks even after I'd lived in the neighborhood for a year. I got looks because I stood out like a sore thumb. Aside from the German tourists on Sunday mornings trying to find churches to go to to hear some gospel singing, white women were far from common near me. Which would beg the question "what's she doing here?" in a way that seeing a young black man would not.
Posted by moosefan on June 4, 2012 at 1:24 PM · Report this
23
@8 - Nothing in those statistics speak to the issue of whether stop and frisk is an effective policing strategy. As someone who, you know, has actually studied the subject, I'll give you a hint: it's not. You find contraband on a tiny fraction of the people frisked, and you create resentment and anger towards the police in the overwhelming majority of the rest, effectively destroying community policing.

@15 - I live in an 80% black city, and I have no car. I walk everywhere. I'm not saying I'm immune to crime, but I've never had a problem. Do you seriously believe that walking through a black neighborhood is really that dangerous? Get out of the house (and your little bubble) a little more.
Posted by MR M on June 4, 2012 at 1:28 PM · Report this
24
@6/10
#6 conflates murder suspects and murders without noticing that there are only 285 murder suspects for the 536 murders. In some cases, one suspect was arrested for multiple murders, but many murders just never had suspects associated with them. In any case saying that, for example, non-hispanic whites committed only 4% of the murders, is unsupportable. What the numbers do show is that you are much more likely to be arrested for a murder if you are black and have criminal record.

If the police mainly suspect African Americans, Latinos and people with criminal records of murder, then they're going to become the bulk of the people arrested for murder in the city. There's clearly an opportunity for a lot of statistical feedback here. It would make sense that someone would be much less likely to get away with murder if they were already on the police's radar.

Lastly, in both posts you're assuming that the murder suspects all actually committed the murders. Almost certainly some did. Almost certainly some did not.
Posted by dirge on June 4, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
25
@13 I doubt the number of 'stop and frisks' has actually gone up 600% over the course of the Bloomberg administration. Rudy Giuliani was NYC'S last mayor, he's hardly an ACLU liberal. It has been my experience that when crime is down, cops become a lot more meticulous about recording routine interactions with the public, such as pat downs that reveal no evidence of a crime. That's probably why the number of recorded stops has gone up.

@16 Do know any black people, FA?

@20 If minority youths don't like being hassled by cops they should stop breaking the law.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on June 4, 2012 at 1:40 PM · Report this
26
@25, the point is that they're not breaking the law. They're being illegally harassed and then being charged with a bogus crime.
Also, your bigotry is showing.
Posted by moosefan on June 4, 2012 at 1:47 PM · Report this
27
@24 So you think the statistics are thrown off by the large number of white people who are committing murder and getting away with it? I doubt it, but let's suppose that non-hispanic whites make up 8% of homicide perpetrators, twice the official figure. That would still make white people a lot less violent than members of minority groups.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on June 4, 2012 at 1:59 PM · Report this
NaFun 28
@25 - I linked to the numbers broken out by year:
http://www.nyclu.org/issues/racial-justi…

"In 2002, 97,296 New Yorkers were stopped by the police.
80,176 were totally innocent (82 percent)."

...

"In 2011, 685,724 New Yorkers were stopped by the police.
605,328 were totally innocent (88 percent).
350,743 were black (53 percent).
223,740 were Latino (34 percent).
61,805 were white (9 percent).
341,581 were aged 14-24 (51 percent)."

You do the math.

Posted by NaFun http://www.dancesafe.org on June 4, 2012 at 2:08 PM · Report this
NaFun 29
@25 -
"@20 If minority youths don't like being hassled by cops they should stop breaking the law."

88% of the stops ended with no charges filed.
Posted by NaFun http://www.dancesafe.org on June 4, 2012 at 2:10 PM · Report this
30
@25
"Do know any black people, FA?"

Why yes I do. And they seem no more prone to criminal activity than the whites that I know. But then, I'm not a bigot. But I do understand statistics.

"If minority youths don't like being hassled by cops they should stop breaking the law."

The statistics show that the ones being "hassled by the cops" were NOT breaking the law. Otherwise there would be a more 1:1 relationship between people stopped and people arrested for a crime.

Only bigots see 1 black committing a crime as being indicative of all blacks committing crimes.
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on June 4, 2012 at 2:11 PM · Report this
31
"High crime neighborhoods tend towards lower property values which make the accessible to lower economic classes.

You managed to get the entirely backwards. Congrats.
Posted by The CD used to be a nice area on June 4, 2012 at 2:13 PM · Report this
32
@28 Is it possible that in 2002 more than 97,296 New Yorkers were stopped by the police but that the additional stops were never properly reported? Like I said, the level of diligence with which police keep records of those types of routine checks varies a lot depending on management priorities and the department's total workload. A rise in the number of recorded police stops under Bloomberg might simply mean that he's more of a stickler about paperwork than Giuliani was.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on June 4, 2012 at 2:23 PM · Report this
33
@30 My sad attempt at heterosexual marriage involved an unfortunate black single mother. Her two daughters still think I'm the coolest person in the world and I visit them about twice a year. During my many years with the Department of Homeland Security I've worked with many black and latino officers and agents. I think I know something about the minority experience in America.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on June 4, 2012 at 2:41 PM · Report this
34
@33
"My sad attempt ... ."

Internet expert is an expert when on the Internet.

"If minority youths don't like being hassled by cops they should stop breaking the law."

I don't think you understand statistics. The statistics show that the overwhelming majority stopped by the cops were NOT breaking the law.

"I think I know something about the minority experience in America."

No. I don't think you do.

"Perhaps middle class black commit fewer crimes because it is harder for them to get away with stuff."

No. I don't think you know a single thing about "the minority experience in America".
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on June 4, 2012 at 2:51 PM · Report this
Asparagus! 35
@32

A 600% change is a mighty accounting error.

The NYPD actually keeps really close track of these things, because officer's have quotas to make in terms of s&fs.
Posted by Asparagus! on June 4, 2012 at 3:08 PM · Report this
36
@28 Just in case your still reading this thread I thought I'd share some interesting statistics published by your beloved NYCLU. The number of documented 'stop and frisks' may have increased 600% under Bloomberg, but the number of misdemeanor marijuana arrests has not. In 2002 the NYPD made 44,400 misdemeanor marijuana arrests, more than in the early years of the Bloomberg administration. Since most misdemeanor marijuana arrests result from 'stop and frisks', the large number of such arrests before Bloomberg was mayor (41,800 in 2001, 51,500 in 2000) support my hypothesis that in those days the NYPD did as many or more 'stop and frisks' but rarely created any record of such encounters unless they resulted in an arrest or citation.

http://www.nyclu.org/files/MARIJUANA-ARR…
Posted by Ken Mehlman on June 5, 2012 at 9:57 PM · Report this
37
@36
"Since most misdemeanor marijuana arrests result from 'stop and frisks', the large number of such arrests before Bloomberg was mayor (41,800 in 2001, 51,500 in 2000) support my hypothesis that in those days the NYPD did as many or more 'stop and frisks' but rarely created any record of such encounters unless they resulted in an arrest or citation."

So by your logic that should mean that the number of 'stop and frisk' searches equaled the number of arrests.

From #28
"In 2002, 97,296 New Yorkers were stopped by the police.
80,176 were totally innocent (82 percent)."

So somehow the cops were using 'stop and frisk' and not filling out the paperwork if nothing was found except in the vast majority (82%) of cases where they did fill out the paperwork when nothing was found.

Again from #28
"In 2011, 685,724 New Yorkers were stopped by the police.
605,328 were totally innocent (88 percent)."

So the percent of 'stop and frisk' where nothing is found remains similar (82% vs 88%) but you are claiming that the 82% is really something like .... math happens ...
97.5%

Here's the math that went into that number.
97,296 (reported stops) minus 80,176 (innocent) is 17,120 (found something)
685,724 (the number you claim is probably nearer the real number of stops) divided by 17,120 (found something)
0.024966313
or rounded up a bit to
2.5% of all the stops you CLAIM happened (but were not documented) resulted in an arrest.
97.5% INNOCENT out of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF STOPS

So 2.5% of stops were stops of criminals in 2002
but 9 years later (2011) that number increases to 18%
In other words, you are claiming that there was an almost 700% INCREASE in criminal activity during those 9 years.

But you have nothing to back up that claim except your desire to see this program as not racist.
More...
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on June 6, 2012 at 12:42 PM · Report this

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