Women Really Wish Cops Wouldn't Grope Them Unnecessarily

New York City police officers aren't taught how to "stop-and-frisk" women differently from men. They say gender is blind when it comes to street stops, but the women in question don't feel the same way.

Last year, the NYPD frisked around 16,000 of the 46,784 women they stopped; only 59 guns were found in total, but 3,993 women were ultimately arrested. The rate of guns found on women is almost equally as low as the rate found on men (0.12 percent and 0.13 percent, respectively), and unnecessary stop-and-frisks aren't pleasurable for anyone, but women say they feel additionally violated and embarrassed by undeserved searches in which cops may pull panties and tampons out of bags or engage in some light groping in the middle of broad daylight, all in the name of the law.

One 24-year-old who was frisked told the New York Times that she felt "powerless" during the procedure. "A male officer should not have a right to touch me in any sort of manner, even if it's on the outside of my clothing," she said. "We're girls. They are men. And they are cops. It feels like a way for them to exert power over you." Another woman said she and two female friends still don't understand why they were frisked by officers who said they were looking for a rapist. "They tapped the back pockets of my jeans, around my buttock," she said. "It was kind of disrespectful and degrading. It was uncalled-for. It made no sense. How are you going to stop three females when you are supposedly looking for a male rapist?"

The Times interviewed a number of people who said one reason women might feel particularly violated is because most incorrectly think that only female officers are allowed to stop-and-frisk women, just like when you go through airport security. But that's not true. Police Inspector Kim Y. Royster said it's unsafe for male officers to wait for female officers to arrive at the scene, especially because they'd often have to wait a very long time — more than 80 percent of the city's cops are men. NYPD cops do go through training which teaches them to "be sensitive to issues surrounding gender, race and ethnicity," but the course doesn't mention anything about stop-and-frisks for weapons.

Oddly, the article never mentions another huge reason why women might not trust the cops: the NYPD's long and grievous history of abusing their power to intimidate and sexually harass women — or worse. Remember last year's "rape cop" cases? Or the time the Associate Legal Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union told us that illegal strip searches by NYPD officers are "a longstanding problem" that "25 years of litigation" have done little to correct? Maybe that
has something to do with how wary the city's women are of the officers who are supposed to protect them. Just a thought.

For Women in Street Stops, Deeper Humiliation [NYT]

Image via SVLuma Shutterstock.