Up until very recently ("recently" as in Monday), New York City was one of several large cities with a stop-and-frisk law — a policy in which "a person [could be] temporarily detained on the street against his or her will for the purposes questioning" by police. Stop-and-Frisk has been legal in NYC for the past 11 years, but, earlier this week, a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional, saying the NYPD was using the law to resort to a “policy of indirect racial profiling.”
"Indirect" is a nice way to put it. The reality of the situation is far less accidental-sounding. 52% of the 4.43 million stops that occurred in New York between 2004-2012 were of black suspects and 31% were hispanic. Of those millions of stops, only 6% have led to arrests. A far far far larger percentage of Stop-and-Frisks is made up of people who just happened to look the wrong way and be in the wrong place at the wrong time, which is to say — in less coded language — that suspects made the mistake of being non-white while simultaneously existing on this planet. Suspicious, indeed.
Even after the court's ruling on Monday, Stop-and-Frisk in NYC is not dead and gone. The city plans to appeal the judge's decision, but even if they accepted the ruling as is, what the court ordered was not technically an end to the law. What was actually determined was that a federal monitor would oversee reforms on the policy.
From the New York Times:
Judge Scheindlin ordered a number of remedies, including a pilot program in which officers in at least five precincts across the city will wear cameras on their bodies to record street encounters. She also ordered a “joint remedial process” — in essence, a series of community meetings — to solicit public comments on how to reform the department’s tactics.
Despite this softball ruling, an unhappy Mayor Bloomberg has defiantly claimed that he will continue with the Stop-and-Frisk policy as is. In other words, it's a total clusterfuck. More so, it's a total clusterfuck served on top of a preexisting clusterfuck, all topped off with a heaping pile of racism.
The whole situation can be confusing, especially if you're lucky enough to have never been personally challenged by the law. Enter The Daily Show — as they so often do in times of trouble — to offer up a poignant, funny and succinct explainer of the injustice and hypocrisy surrounding Stop-and-Frisk.
A choice quote from John Oliver:
"For a moment, let me just address the white people. You know how we feel at the airport when the TSA is patting us down, unnecessarily delaying us, looking for weapons which we obviously don't have and we're just trying to get to our gate. Imagine your whole neighborhood is Terminal B at LaGuardia, and the TSA agents sometimes talk to you like this, "Uh, boarding pass, and what the fuck are you looking at? Open that computer bag before I break your arm, motherfucker!'"
Laugh or cry — it's up to you. (I'm doing a mix of both.)