Tag Archives: Stop and Frisk

Stop-And-Frisk Information Guide: Bringing it All Together

Over the last month, we’ve highlighted the ways scholars, activists and journalists work to further social justice around the issue of stop-and-frisk.  Today, we bring it all together.

The stop-and-frisk information guide (or Module Packet) is designed to bring together scholarship, activist strategies, and digital media tools to help you create your own stop-and-frisk social justice campaign.

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Our goal with bring this all together is to create a practical, resource-rich, all-in-one introduction to start a social justice digital campaign, whether you are an activist on the ground,  a journalist writing a story or an academic who may want to connect your research to social change.  If you are teaching a class or training people in your organization, you can also use this Information Guide as a tool for teaching and learning about stop-and-frisk.

This Information Guide is structured around three levels of social justice outcomes:

  • Make Your Issues Their Interest: Raising Awareness About An Issue with an Audience
  • Make Your Issue Their Issue: Getting an Audience More Deeply Engaged in An Issue
  • Make Your Issue Their Action: Moving an Audience Towards a Specific Action

Throughout this Information Guide, we cover basic campaigning how-to’s, some of the best tools for collaboration and outreach, and provide examples from the JustPublics@365 stop-and-frisk series. 

We hope that the Information Guide will help you reach you more people by integrating some of the most widely used social networks into your social justice campaign, your reporting, and your research or your classroom projects.

If you have any questions in planning your campaign, please feel free to contact us at justpublics365@gmail.com or send us a tweet, @JustPublics365

Click here to download the Stop-And-Frisk Information Guide [pdf]

JustPublics@365 Stop and Frisk Series: A Temporary Conclusion

cc-licensed photo "March to End NYPD's Stop-and-Frisk" by flickr user j-No

cc-licensed photo “March to End NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk” by flickr user j-No

With this post, we are ending our month-long look at Stop-and-Frisk, the controversial set of policing practices that, as the New York Civil Liberties Union notes, has resulted in the discriminatory temporary detention of thousands of black and latino New Yorkers.

During our series, we have examined Stop-and-Frisk from a number of angles and perspectives, and through a number of different multimedia tools:

Of course, it’s that last post, which covers the election of Bill de Blasio and the recent ruling on Stop-and-Frisk legislation, that reminds us how quickly the conversation is shifting, sometimes in unexpected ways. Though our own series is over for now, we will continue to track Stop-and-Frisk on this site and will be putting together an archive of our Stop-and-Frisk posts and resources. We invite you to continue this important conversation in the comments section and through social media as we collectively chart the future of our city and work together to create a more just public.

Bill de Blasio and The Future of Stop and Frisk

On Tuesday, November 4th 2013, Bill de Blasio was elected mayor of New York City after winning 73 percent of the vote.  Over the course of his campaign, de Blasio’s platform focused on stop-and-frisk, and supporting the (recently-removed) Judge Scheindlin’s ruling, which found the policing practice unconstitutional and ordered a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD. Speaking at a rally in Brooklyn to protest pending hospital closures, de Blasio said “I would not continue (the appeal). I’ve said all along we need to make significant reforms.”

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So, what does it mean for stop-and-frisk policing in New York with Judge Scheindlin being challenged (and fighting back) and a mayor-elect who promises to bring change?  It’s not clear yet, but activists are continuing to press the issue.

On Wednesday, activists from Color of Change joined with community leaders at City Hall to request that de Blasio follow through on his promise to reform NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.

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The question remain: will de Blasio get rid of discriminatory stop-and-frisks once he’s in office? How can activists, journalists and academics come together to ensure that changes are made to the offensive policing tactics?

One way that people who are concerned about stop-and-frisk can have their voices heard is to get involved in the innovative series of events called “Talking Transition: New York City.”

TalkingTransitionTentTalking Transition Tent: Nov.9-23

Talking Transition is  truly new kind of effort to make the mayoral transition in New York City  a truly open one.  This unique approach to mayoral transition is made possible by several foundations, including our sponsor the Ford Foundation.  The initiative aims to make the mayoral transition more transparent through a series of events, including The Talking Transition tent which will be open from  9AM to 9PM every day of the week from Nov.9 – Nov. 23.  You can also submit your thoughts about the transition online, and there will be a series of mobile Talking Transition tents throughout the five boroughs.

Contribute to The Talking Transition and let the newly elected Mayor diBlasio know your thoughts on stop-and-frisk.

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This post is part of the Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on stop-and-friskIf you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at justpublics365@gmail.com with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”

Interview: Brett Stoudt and Maria Torre about the Morris Justice Project

Today, our stop-and-frisk series continues with an email interview I did with two researchers involved in the Morris Justice Project (MJP), a community-based, participatory research and action project in the Bronx.

Brett Stoudt (PhD, John Jay-CUNY) Brett-Stoudt is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department with a Joint Appointment in the Gender Studies Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He has worked on numerous participatory research projects nationally and internationally. He has recently served as the Research Director for Polling for Justice: a large NYC based participatory action research project to explore, with youth and adults, the experiences of young people across criminal justice, education, and public health. His work has been published in volumes such as Class Privilege & Education Advantage and journals such as The Urban Review; Children, Youth & Environments; and Men and Masculinities.

Maria Elena Torre (PhD, Graduate Center-CUNY) is the founding Director of The Public Science Project at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. For more than 10 yearMaria Elena Torres she has conducted participatory action research nationally and internationally with schools, prisons, and community-based organizations. Her work has introduced the concept of ‘participatory contact zones’ to collaborative research, asking how we might build a radically inclusive ‘we’– from which to build knowledge, relationships, and policy that interrupt social injustice? She is a co-author of Echoes of Brown: Youth Documenting and Performing the Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education and Changing Minds: The Impact of College on a Maximum Security Prison.


Jessie: Can you share a little bit about the Morris Justice Project and how you came to be involved in the issue of stop-and-frisk in New York City?

Brett and Maria: The Morris Justice Project was designed to document the experiences and attitudes of residents living in a heavily policed New York City neighborhood. Since 2011, we have collaborated with residents of the Morris Avenue area of the South Bronx, a neighborhood in the 44th police precinct that had the highest percentage of police stops leading to physical force in New York City. We joined together as a research team after each of us had grown deeply concerned about the impact of the city’s increasing use of aggressive and discriminatory policing. Mothers (who eventually became our co-researchers) had taken to filming police interactions with their sons, using their cell phones to document regular harassment in their private courtyard. We were interested in partnering with them after our own city-wide study (Polling for Justice, Stoudt, Fine & Fox, 2012) revealed disturbing interactions between youth and police.  Our mutual concern led us to meet others in the neighborhood and after an open community meeting at the local Melrose library, we formed a diverse community research team of elders, mothers, fathers, youth, students, community organizers, university faculty and attorneys. Together, as co-researchers, we developed all of the research questions, methods, analyses, and products collaboratively.

Using a participatory action research (PAR) framework, we deliberately engaged the expertise in the neighborhood – the experiences and understandings of those living the consequences of years of policies like stop-and-frisk. Our team decided on a multi-method design that would be able to speak to the NYPD as well as to neighbors in the South Bronx and those who have never been stopped. Over multiple sessions and rich discussion in the library, we built our capacity as a research team through exchanging knowledge about research methods, everyday experiences of stop and frisk, and about city data on policing. We then developed a survey interview and questions with the intent of gathering a representative portrait of neighborhood experiences with and attitudes towards police, as well as close looks at those of particular populations (e.g., mothers, elders, young African American men, etc.). Armed with pens and clipboards, the research team walked the 42 blocks of our neighborhood and systematically distributed the survey in person, block by block. Surveys were also distributed with the help of local businesses, churches, the library, and social networks. Over 1,000 surveys were collected. Additionally, the research team conducted focus groups and individual interviews.

The research team analyzed the quantitative and qualitative data collaboratively using methods such as stats-in-action that allows everyone to participate in analysis at the same time. The findings were used towards a broad set of local and citywide police reform activities intended to raise awareness as well as support ongoing legal and legislative work. This included producing a report that can be easily be carried in a back-pocket, posters, buttons, and t-shirts to communicate the experiences and impact of aggressive policing; co-sponsoring events with community and legal organizations such as the Bronx Defenders and CopWatch to address neighborhood safety; and producing an active social media campaign in solidarity with court cases, legislation, and community organizing related to police reform. Throughout the research process, the lawyers on the research team provided education and legal services for individuals living in the neighborhood.

In addition to documenting experiences and impact of aggressive policing, we developed the ‘community safety wall’ a growing mobile museum of residents’ understandings of what makes their neighborhood feel safe. These ideas will be further developed in community safety workshops this winter that will be designed to offer advocates and policymakers concrete alternatives beyond policing for creating safe communities. You can learn more about the project, the findings, and products at http://morrisjustice.org.

Jessie:  What changes do you foresee with District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s recent ruling on this controversial policing practice?

Brett and Maria: The Floyd and Ligon class action lawsuits against the NYPD as well as the passing of the Community Safety Act (Intro 1080 and 1079) mark important strides to end discriminatory policing practices in NYC. However, the recent U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision has made the future of police reform temporarily uncertain. The next mayor will play a significant role in whether future appeals are pursued and how and what changes eventually occur within the NYPD.

Jessie: Some academics might be hesitant to get involved in such a controversial political issue.  What do you say to critics who might question your ‘objectivity’ as a scholar?

Brett and Maria: First, whether considered ‘controversial’ in the public or not, there is no credible academic research thus far that has been able to demonstrate a substantial relationship between the decline in crime in NYC and the increasing use of stop-and-frisk by the NYPD.

There are however, many studies, and now several lawsuits, that have demonstrated that stop- -and-frisk has too frequently been racially biased, unconstitutionally practiced, and ineffective at uncovering weapons or other crimes.

At the same time, there is increasing evidence that it deteriorates community-police relationships and has a whole set of unintended consequences, in particular for communities of color, poor communities, and among LGTBQ and gender-nonconforming people (whether stopped by police or not). For more details about the ways stop-and-frisk harms community-police relationships see http://morrisjustice.org/report and http://www.vera.org/project/stop-question-and-frisk-study). Communities like the South Bronx deserve effective policing that is fair and just.

Second, we are participatory action researchers (PAR). PAR argues that the distinction between ‘academic’ and ‘activist’ is a false dichotomy. There is a long history of scholar-activists like Kurt Lewin, W.E.B Du Bois, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Paulo Freire to name a few. Scholar-activists are committed to producing strong scholarship, grounded in carefully produced and analyzed data, that is in turn useful beyond the academy – for the general public, for activists, advocates, lawyers, and policymakers. While all of our work produces academic papers and presentations we equally value other more popular or ‘public’ ways of using our research to interrupt injustice. PAR does not subscribe to the notion that social science is ever value-free. In fact, we believe that research that strives for, or claims, objectivity, is vulnerable to reproducing values that reflect or benefit those in power or who hold privilege.

Instead, PAR asks that researchers to examine the ways knowledge is historically situated and produced, and to reflect carefully on how our lives (e.g. our experiences, values, biases, and assumptions) may determine what we ask, what we see, how we analyze, and what we say.  In practice, as PAR researchers, we think and talk about our values and assumptions as part of the research process and we build diverse research teams as contact zones (almost as a validity check) with multiple standpoints, experiences, skills and expertise. We furthermore seek opportunities outside our research team to hold our instruments, data, and interpretations accountable (e.g. community-based advisory groups). And in our analyses, we intentionally seek counter-stories, outliers, and pieces of data that do not match our assumptions and overall conclusions.

Jessie: A major focus of JustPublics@365 is bringing together academics, activists and journalists in ways that promote social justice, civic engagement and greater democracy.  What sort of ‘lessons learned’ do you have from your experience with the Morris Justice Project about academics entering a terrain more frequently trod by activists and journalists? 

Brett and Maria: The participatory community-rooted design used by the Morris Justice Project allowed researchers (in the academy and the community) to simultaneously speak to local and citywide concerns about policing. The project was intentionally designed to deeply engage a small, highly impacted section of NYC in order that both research and action could go beyond a city sweep and remain local in its focus and attention. Our research findings and products made their way into the city-wide campaign for police-reform, and at times into the hands of lawmakers, but each instance was grounded in the community from which the data was produced.

As an example of research that braids research and action through scholarly and democratic practice, the Morris Justice Project is useful. The research team held two simultaneous commitments in solidarity with the citywide police reform movement: finding strategies to be in conversation about policing with residents in the neighborhood as well as findings strategies to amplify the experiences and concerns within this one neighborhood throughout the city. This research-action design allowed for the collection and analysis of large amounts of information (data) and then the direct delivery of that information back in a reasonably comprehensive way to those who produced it, through education, local activism, legal support, and relationship-building with local residents and community organizations. At the same time, the design allowed for the collection of information that had relevance beyond the local and the development of genuine social, professional, and political relationships that extended beyond the project. As a result, the Morris Justice Project, through its research, was able to establish strong and reciprocal connections with a host of citywide activities including grassroots activism, legislation, and lawsuits.

Visualizing The Effects of Stop and Frisk

A powerful way to understand the effects of stop-and-frisk on the people of NYC is through data visualization. Data visualization provides scholars, activists and journalists with a set of tools to display data in a way that can be more easily and clearly communicated with a broad audience. In an era in which digital media is re-shaping scholarly communication, data visualization has became an important tool in teaching, research and activism.

Many data visualizations have been created to illustrate the effects of stop-and-frisk in New York City.  For example, the folks at the Center for Constitutional Rights have created a map that shows which neighborhoods have been most affected by stop-and-frisk by charting the number of stops by precinct.

The borders of the map below represent NYPD precincts throughout New York City.

The borders of the map below represent NYPD precincts throughout New York City. Image from: Stopandfrisk.org

A journalism school class at Columbia University compiled stop-and-frisk data to produce a map with stops color-coded by race. The map powerfully illustrates how stop-and-frisk policing disproportionately impacts communities of color.  

Stop and frisk data broken down by race. The key to reading those dots is as follows: 1. black: blue; 2. black Hispanic: black; 3. white Hispanic: orange; 4. white: red; 5. Asian/Pacific Islander: green; 6. American Indian/Native Alaskan: yellow.

Stop and frisk data broken down by race (each dot represents a stop). The key to reading those dots is as follows: 1. black: blue; 2. black Hispanic: black; 3. white Hispanic: orange; 4. white: red; 5. Asian/Pacific Islander: green; 6. American Indian/Native Alaskan: yellow.

The online magazine BKLYNR, which features quality journalism about Brooklyn, has also used data visualization to focus attention on the issue of stop-and-frisk.  In their piece, All The Stops they chart the “more than 530,000 stops that occurred in 2012, [to] reveal who is being stopped, why they’re being stopped, and what, if anything, is being found by the police as a result.”  BLKYNR’s visualization of stop-and-frisk allows for a strong understanding of the volume and effects of this policing tactic and engages audiences through questions and answers such as:

Where did the stop occur? 

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What was the suspect’s race?

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What was the reason for the stop? 

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Was the suspect frisked?

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Was contrabound found?

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Was an arrest made?

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Take Action 
Are you interested in making your own data visualization? There are many tools that journalists, academics, and activists can use. As a way to get started, take a look at this list of the Top 20 Data Visualization Tools.

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This post is part of the Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on stop-and-friskIf you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at justpublics365@gmail.com with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”


Special Interview with Jamilah King on Covering Stop-and-Frisk


Jamilah King is the news editor at Colorlines.com, coordinating story assignments as news breaks, as well as covering urban politics and youth culture. In this interview we talk about her involvement as one of the leading journalists working on the issues of urban politics and youth culture in New York City and what changes she foresees coming from District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s recent ruling on Stop-And-Frisk.

Can you share a little bit about yourself and your involvement as one of the leading journalists working on the issues of urban politics and youth culture in New York City?

I’m a senior editor at Colorlines.com. I have been with Colorlines for quite a few years. We were really moved by the issues of “Stop and Frisk” for a number of reasons but primarily as people of color who live in New York City it’s an issue that deserves attention and that’s why we try to cover it.

What is Colorlines.com?

Colorlines is a national news site where we aren’t afraid to talk about race. That could mean everything from talking about things that are kind of explicitly about race, issues like “Stop and Frisk” for sure. Pretty policy heavy and exists within this long history of police harassment of men of color specifically. It can also mean talking about music and culture and that’s sort of where I sort of step into the picture and look at issues as they relate to culture. How people move through cities or move through environments and the policies that affect that movement. For instance, today we did a story on the Swedish band Dragon, they’re getting ready to release their new album. Using a lot of South African house music on it. It’s kind of a little bit of everything. But it’s multi-centered on the idea that we’re not afraid to talk about race in an era when a lot of people are really really afraid to talk about race.

Our social justice topic series on stop-and-frisk is focused on envisioning what NYC will look like without stop-and-frisk tactics. In your experience, what changes, if any, do you foresee with District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s recent ruling to end this controversial policing experiment? What does this ruling mean to the young men and women of color in NYC? 

I think the first thing is a lot of the folks that have been covering “Stop and Frisk.” a lot of the folks that have been advocating force and of course folks who have been directly targeted by “Stop and Frisk” practices would like to envision a New York that is actually welcoming to all of its inhabitants. You know New York has this global reputation as the city where anyone can come and make something happen. Where anyone can come and make themselves feel at home. I think that historically that has been true for certain communities. Primarily white communities or communities of privilege. But it has not historically been true for communities of color.

We did a couple of pieces specifically talking to young men of color and young people of color who were targeted by “Stop and Frisk” all the way back to 2010. We actually talked to the David Floyd who really emphasized this idea of wanting to walk down the street and not feel a sense of fear. That you are a target. In my reporting I’ve talked to a number of psychologists and policy folks who were really trying to bring home the point, the psychological, emotional and physical impact that a policy like “Stop and Frisk” has on someone.

If you are a young man of color who is walking down the street and you do get stopped and you do get cited for whatever reason, I think that it has a profound impact on not only on the way that you see police, but the way that you see yourself. I was talking to a young man who actually last summer who lived in Brownville, Brooklyn.He’s a guy who works at a community center and he had grown up in Brownsville. He really communicated to me just feeling like you’ve done something wrong. Just by being in your skin, your body. You, by walking down the street, is somehow a criminal act.

That is wrong on any number of levels. But it’s especially wrong when you think about it in this context of really policing the bodies of people of color.

I know that a lot of “Stop and Frisk” is very specifically about black and brown men. But it’s also an issue we have seen with queer communities of color. It’s also an issue with women of color. I think the broader issues of surveillance of communities of color is something that you see across these different sections. The AP, Associated Press, did a story, an investigation last year looking into the unwarranted surveillance of Muslim communities of New York State. And now you have all these NSA revelations we’re all seeing that we’re being targeted in some way, shape or form. Even for folks who aren’t directly impacted by a thing like “Stop and Frisk” I think they should be wary of it because it sets a precedent. It sets a precedent for the types of behaviors that law enforcement can engage in. While those behaviors may start with one particular community they often expand to a lot of other people.

A major focus of JustPublics@365 is bringing together academics, activists and journalists in ways that promote social justice, civic engagement and greater democracy.  What sort of ‘lessons learned’ do you have  from your experience with activists and journalists working together to shed light on Stop-and-Frisk?  

I think that “Stop and Frisk” is a really is a model of a very specific policy issue that gained a lot of traction, thanks in part to those different sectors working together and each sharing their expertise. You know? You had groups in New York City who had long been working on issues of police accountability and they were sort of very involved in the organizing elements of this. You have groups like Communities Against Violence, you have also the Malcolm X Project, these groups that have long been doing this type of work. they were very much integral in pushing that policy agenda.

Then you had young people. You had young people, you had young media makers, media makers in general actually capturing what was happening. That actually gave voices and stories and faces and names to the issues that many people felt very detached from. Then of course you had the academic aspect of it which gave a lot of context, historical context that was going on. I think especially in my work as a journalist it was really important to get the perspective of academics who not only work in policy, but as I mentioned before who are psychologists and can actually talk about this as a public health issue and not just one of quote-unquote political correctness.

I think that by having a bunch of different people at the table owning their expertise, giving and allowing each other the room and the space to own that issue from their perspective. “You are great with a camera go out and make a short video,” if you are great at sort of getting into the meat of things. If you’re a great organizer and can bring a hundred or two hundred people together, then do that. I think you really, really saw a lot of that traction and positive energy around this issue.

What people and resources (both print and social media) should individuals follow to stay on top of news related to stop-and-frisk?  

Colorlines.com is a good resource that I’d encourage everyone to read. Also organizations that have been working on this issue. I mentioned Malcolm X Project does a lot around policy. The Nation magazine published, about a year ago, one of the first videos that captured the interaction between a young man of color, and a police officer, who was being stopped and frisked. Those are the sort of outlets that I think that folks can go to if they want to stay plugged in. I’d also say that this is an issue that’s built around personal narrative. I think talking to people in your community about issues of police harassment or even talking to police officers themselves, ones who are safe to talk to and are willing to engage around what does safe and accountable police look like. Those are the conversations that can be had in a number of communities, not just New York.

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This post is part of the Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on stop-and-friskIf you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at justpublics365@gmail.com with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”

Where Are We Now? Stop-and-Frisk

This week, JustPublics@365 continues our month-long exploration of stop-and-frisk, the controversial set of policing practices that, as the NYCLU has noted, has resulted in the questioning of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding black and Latino New Yorkers.

In previous weeks, we have measured the effects of stop-and-frisk, interviewed leading activists working for changes in stop-and-frisk policies, and offered a comprehensive interactive timeline of important events related to stop-and-frisk.

This week, we pause to consider the state of stop-and-frisk in New York City in the shadow of an important mayoral race and recent legislation. We’ll take stock of things with the help of journalists covering the issue and politicians taking stands on it. As we do so, we’ll be sharing resources that you can explore for more information and providing visualizations of stop-and-frisk practices.

We hope you’ll join in this week as we continue to explore this important issue. Please help share this work through social media and please consider entering the conversation by leaving comments on our posts.

Get Involved
Do you have a personal story that you want to share related to stop-and frisk? JustPublics@365 is collecting digital stories related to stop-and-frisk and we would love to hear your voice. If you are interested, please contact Morgane Richardson at justpublics365@gmail.com with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Digital Storytelling.”

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This post is part of the Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on stop-and-friskIf you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at justpublics365@gmail.com with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”




“I’ve Been Stopped a Thousand Times”: Measuring Effects of Stop and Frisk

“I’ve been stopped a thousand times” – Black male survey respondent during the research conducted for Coming of Age with Stop and Frisk.

How do you measure the effects of stop-and-frisk on NYC youth, such as the survey respondent above, who report having being stopped more often than they could count or remember?

This was a pivotal challenge faced by researchers, Jennifer Fratello (Research Director, Vera Center on Youth Justice) and Andrés Rengifo (Associate Professor, Rutgers University) for their report Coming of Age with Stop and Frisk: Experiences, Self-Perceptions, and Public Safety Implications which attempts to capture the effects of stop-and-frisk.  During a recent event organized by The Center on Race, Crime and Justice at John Jay College-CUNY on October 17th, Fratello and Rengifo discussed their research.

stop-and-frisk nyc academic advisory council

Now that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice was rejected by U.S. District Judge Scheindlin, the debate has shifted from discussions regarding its effectiveness in reducing crime to the effect it has on the lives of those stopped (in many cases more than once). As activists seek deeper reforms in policing, public scholarship is once again called upon to inform this debate.

While conducting research, Fratello and Rengifo quickly found out that in order to capture the broader effects of stop-and-frisk, they would have to learn to ask better questions and work with key government and community groups. The latter is particularly important, as they soon realized, none of the stakeholders (e.g., schools, police, public agencies, churches) were talking to each other.  During the October 17th meeting, panel speaker, Dr. C. Jama Adams discussed the importance of having greater institutional channels for communication among these stakeholders.  He mentioned that stop-and-frisk should be addressed holistically through a community-approach.  He feels this is the only way to address the deeply-rooted culture of “fearfulness” of which he finds Black males are often the scapegoat and which he feels stifles the individual creativity and spontaneity of all community members.    

Fratello and Rengifo faced challenges in capturing the instances of stop-and-frisk events in a respondents’ life.  In some instances, the sheer scale of the policing practice proved to be a problem. In piloting the survey, the researchers discovered that they would have to modify their questions to account for multiple stops. For those people who were stopped more than once, they either asked them to talk about the last time they were stopped or their most memorable stop. Yet, even when conducting research in neighborhoods with high rates of stop-and-frisk occurrences, the researchers were not able to meet their data collection goals for two neighborhoods – Jackson Heights and South Bronx – even after adjusting their research questions and approach.  In both of these areas they found that in general, people seemed reluctant to speak with outsiders about the police.  However, in Jackson Heights they faced the additional challenge that the majority of residents (65%) are foreign-born and may have an added apprehension of talking with “outsiders” (Coming of Age with Stop and Frisk: 11).

In other words, the very nature of stop-and-frisk makes it hard to measure its effects.  The reason for this is that those most victimized have a general apprehension over being approached by strangers, especially to discuss involvement with the police.

vera institute study
Coming of Age with Stop and Frisk: Experiences, Self-Perceptions, and Public Safety Implications at John Jay College-CUNY, October 17, 2013.  (Photo Credit: WNegron)

Despite these challenges, Fratello and Rengifo were able to uncover some of the corrosive effects of stop-and-frisk policing, especially on young people. They found that among the young people most stopped (between the ages of 13 and 25), trust in law enforcement is disturbingly low.  

  • 88 percent of young people surveyed believe that residents of their neighborhood do not trust the police.
  • Only four in 10 respondents said they would be comfortable seeking help from police if in trouble.
  • Young people who have been stopped more often in the past are less willing to report crimes, even when they themselves are the victims. Each additional stop in the span of a year is associated with an eight percent drop in the person’s likelihood of reporting a violent crime he or she might experience in the future (Coming to Age with Stop and Frisk: 89).

These findings present several troubling public safety implications.  For one, this population is most at risk of future victimization, therefore, its worrisome to consider they may feel like they have no where to turn if victimized. Secondly, they are also the ones for whom law enforcement needs to connect with in order to solve crimes and significantly improve safety in these neighborhoods.

Previous studies have found a similar level of distrust of law enforcement among urban youth of color.  In a series of qualitative interviews with urban youth in the United States, Canada, and Australia, Ruck and colleagues document that these young people were not only concerned about abusive treatment by police but were also resigned to it because they saw it as “inevitable and unlikely to change” (Ruck et al., 2008:20, “Youth experiences of surveillance. In M. Flynn & D.C. Brotherton).  However, other studies have shown that distrust of law enforcement can be spread through social networks and does not necessarily require direct contact with the criminal justice system (Menjívar & Bejarano, 2004, “Latino immigrants’ perceptions of crime and police authorities in the United States: A case study from the Phoenix Metropolitan area“). Clearly, this highlights the need for more research to discern between other factors which could give rise to distrust of law enforcement.  

stop and frisk nyc,

(See full infographic here)

Fratello and Rengifo include a set of timely recommendations in the Vera Institute report aimed at restoring trust and improving police-community relations. Most relevant for academics is their recommendation for the NYPD to partner with researchers to better understand the costs and benefits of various proactive policing strategies meant to replace stop-and-frisk.

Although academic-police partnerships are not new and reflect a growing trend toward “evidence-based” practice, it is not a relationship which comes easily for either police or researchers. In the article, “Partnerships with University-Based Researchers,” in a 2009 edition of The Police Chief Magazine, Sanders notes that although partnerships between law enforcement leaders and academic researchers have achieved much success and demonstrate long-term benefits for both, “only a small number of law enforcement agencies have actually reaped the benefits of research partnerships” (Sanders, 2009).   Other scholars describe these partnerships as filled with mutual misunderstanding that negatively impacts police-academic relationships and practices (Bradley and Nixon, 2009: “Ending the ‘dialogue of the deaf’: Evidence and policing policies“).

This research raises serious questions about the prospects for success of the proposed Academic Advisory Council, proposed by Judge Scheindlin.  This council is intended to engage in a community-based remedial process to develop sustainable reforms to the stop-and-frisk practices of the NYPD.” Scheindlin recruited Brooklyn Law School Professor I. Bennett Capers to be chair of the council, along with a dozen law professors from Columbia, Yale, Fordham, City University of New York (CUNY), Rutgers and Hofstra law schools, all of whom will serve in a pro bono capacity.

Although this Academic Advisory Council will set to play a large role in informing and shaping further police reforms, it is worth noting that other police-academic efforts at reform are underway.  One important new initiative is The Center for PolicingEquity.org, which seeks to promote police transparency and accountability by facilitating innovative research collaborations between law enforcement agencies and social scientists.

The Vera Institute report, Coming of Age with Stop and Frisk, by Fratello and Rengifo is a significant contribution to understanding the effects of stop-and-frisk policing, and there is much work to be done in documenting the effects of this practice, and in charting a new way forward.  The ruling by Judge Scheindlin makes it clear that the future of New York City is one without stop-and-frisk.  Academic researchers who are interested in this issue have a unique opportunity to help shape this future.


Envisioning A Better Future: Youth Action Against Stop-and-Frisk

Our series on Stop-and-Frisk continues as we take a look at what it means to ‘come of age’ under stop-and-frisk.  Over the next two days, we’ll focus on the impact on young people in New York City dealing with stop-and-frisk and how U.S. youth mobilize to resist criminalization.

Young adults, between the ages of 18 and 25, comprise at least half of all recorded stops in NYC. In 2012, over 286,000 young people in this age group were stopped and frisked. A study by the Vera Institute on Youth Justice recorded that young people in NYC are now less willing to report crimes, even when they are the victims. What does it mean to grow up within a system that targets, rather than protects, you? How do U.S. youth envision their futures within a system they fear?

In December 2010, the Community Justice Network For Youth (CJNY) organized a conference in D.C. to address the injustices within the U.S. juvenile justice system. They called on youth, parents and advocates to share their personal experiences and research on the justice system and create a vision of alternatives to youth incarceration. The keynote speaker, Chino Hardin (the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives and Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions), addressed the audience by sharing a personal journey as a youth within the prison system.  “In my youth I was arrested sixteen times and incarcerated on eight different occasions, so I know what goes on inside the walls of juvenile detention centers,” says Chino. 

While Chino addressed the broken policing systems in America, Chino also instilled hope for the future, “Sometimes, you’ve gotta make the bridge by walking and sometimes that bridge is gonna be your back… [but justice will come].” Here is Chino’s keynote address (14:55):

Envisioning a better future, a future beyond stop-and-frisk, means creating a future that listens to the voices of young people. In Hardin’s words, “The children are the future… we’ve gotta make sure they can hold it and they can’t hold it if their hands are cuffed behind their back.”

Get Involved
Do you have a personal story that you want to share related to stop-and frisk? JustPublics@365 is collecting digital stories related to stop-and-frisk and we would love to hear your voice. If you are interested, please contact Morgane Richardson at justpublics365@gmail.com with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Digital Storytelling.”

Be Informed. Stay Updated.
For more information on the The Vera Institute Study, take a look at Coming of Age with Stop and Frisk: Experiences, Self-Perceptions, and Public Safety Implications or contact Jennifer Fratello at jfratello@vera.org.  Tomorrow, our series will offer focus on this study.

* * *

This post is part of the Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on Stop-And-FriskIf you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at justpublics365@gmail.com with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”

Our Stop-and-Frisk Series: A Case Study for Reimagining Scholarly Communication

As we begin our second week of topic series on stop-and-frisk, I wanted to say a little something more about why we decided to do the series, and how it relates to the overall goal of JustPublics@365, which is to reimagine scholarly communication in the digital era for the public good.

We’re living at a moment in higher education in faculty are increasingly using social media for their personal lives, as well as their work as professional and in the classroom.  A new study just released from the Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson finds that 40 percent of faculty members used social media as a teaching tool in 2013.

FACULTY_SocialMedia(Graphic from Inside Higher Ed)

Faculty members’ use of social media has been steadily increasing since the survey was first conducted in 2010, said Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.

Simultaneously, and for a variety of different reasons, a growing number of faculty want to do interdisciplinary work and they want their work to have a broader impact than simply contributing to the scholarly literature in their sub-field of specialization.  However, the reward structure in academia is set against both these possibilities.  Zachary Ernst (Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri-Columbia), in an eloquent post,  “Why I Jumped Off the Ivory Tower,”  describes academia as containing “a perverse incentive structure that maintains the status quo, rewards mediocrity, and discourages potentially high-impact, interdisciplinary work.”  After detailing an interdisciplinary grant proposal gone horribly awry at his institution, Ernst assesses the situation thusly:

In such an environment, our efforts are channeled into narrow sub-specialties, and we consign our work to a tiny audience. Despite the common talk about the importance of “disruptive research” in the university, there’s no real understanding of what makes something “disruptive”. To disrupt anything requires going outside the normal methods for one’s work, redefining what’s important or interesting, and usually drawing on a wide range of data and methodologies. It almost always requires collaboration, and almost always requires going outside one’s own comfort zone. But in an environment where the senior faculty and administrators have been rewarded throughout their careers for toeing their disciplinary lines, there’s a lot of resistance to change. Some of that resistance is due to outright hostility, but most of it is just the result of a lack of experience and imagination.

While Ernst took a clear eyed view of the limitations of academia and chose to “jump off” the Ivory Tower, we prefer to reimagine it.

The aim of JustPublics@365 is to foster just the kind of “disruptive” work that can foster connections between academics, activists and journalists who are working to address some of the pressing social problems of our time.  From where we sit in the heart of New York City, stop-and-frisk is at the top of the list of pressing social problems because of the deleterious effects it has on the democratic life of the city.  Stop-and-frisk has also been an issue around which academics, activists and journalists have worked together, across traditional silos and enabled by digital media, in order to end this practice.

So, we offer this series on stop-and-frisk as a kind of case study of how we might reimagine scholarly communication for the public good.



How to Create Your Own Timeline

Throughout this topic series, we will introduce knowledge streams and digital tools that can help you present information in engaging and meaningful ways. The Timeline JS tool used to create the Stop-and-Frisk timeline is one of these tools.

Timelines allow you to craft a narrative for your audience, gather a wide range of information, and provide a platform that is clean, clear, and interactive. Whether designing a class project, curating data and resources for an academic article, or presenting a history of your community group, timelines naturally combine the visual and textual in an easy to follow format.

While digital tools change at a rapid rate, a current favorite timeline of mine is Timeline JS. Developed by Zach Wise as part of Northwestern University’s Knight Lab, the tool is simple to use and produces visually appealing, interactive timelines that are easily embedded on a website.

To get started, download the Google spreadsheet template. You can then pull in media directly from Wikipedia, Soundcloud, YouTube, GoogleMaps, Twitter, Flicker, and more. There are clear step-by-step instructions on on the Timeline JS website, including a video tutorial and an excellent Help section. We’ve also made some screencasts to get you started. The first walks you through the basics of creating a timeline, the second highlights some of the options available.

Timeline Basics


Working in the Template



Top 3 Timeline Tips

1. Create a clear narrative. The strongest timelines are those that tell a clear narrative. Though presented in a visual form, timelines are much like any research paper or story: they work best when they have a good organizational structure and the order of the argument makes sense.

2. Incorporate a range of media. Images are only one way to ground your text. Charts, maps, documents, links to other sources, video, and infographics can give your project a more robust feel and provide your reader with further avenues to explore on the topic.

3. Cross-promote content. Timelines let you curate a broad range of information. If there are academics, journalists, activists, or community groups working on the subject, be sure to include links to their websites, tweets that are relevant to the topic, and events or research that they’ve done. Not only will this broaden the readership of your timeline, but it will direct people to important work being done in the field.

In the comments, please feel free to share links to your own timeline projects.


This post is part of the Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on Stop-And-FriskIf you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at justpublics365@gmail.com with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”

Special Interview with Eli Silverman on Recent Stop-And-Frisk Trial

Eli Silverman, JustPublics@365

Professor Eli Silverman

This past week, I interviewed Eli Silverman, PhD (Professor, Emeritus, john Jay and Graduate Center, CUNY), about his experience testifying as an expert witness in the recent stop-and-frisk trial, Floyd, et al. v. New York City. In this interview, I asked Professor Silverman about his involvement as one of the leading scholars working on the issue of stop-and-frisk in New York City and his experience translating academic research to a wider audience. We also discussed the potential changes that will occur as a result of District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling and the ramifications of stepping outside the academy and into the courtroom.


Can you share a bit about yourself, and your involvement as one of the leading scholars working on the issues of Stop-And-Frisk in New York City?

I have been involved for some many years on research on the NYPD. I wrote a book [NYPD Battles Crime: Innovative Strategies in Policing] that came out in 1999 that was updated in 2001, which dealt with the reforms, the very important reforms that were introduced in the police department in 1994. I went back before then, but focused on that period, from 1994 on, which was a very significant period in terms of management and crime reduction and reforms. It was essentially a positive book. But when I updated it in 2001 with an epilogue, I found I was hearing many stories and discussions about how some of the things I had considered positive were being distorted and turned on its head, and had resulted, had stemmed from management pressure from the headquarters to really just produce numbers, and these numbers were the number of summonses, the number of arrests, the number of Stop-And-Frisks, and all in the name of driving down crime.

How did you get involved with the recent Stop-And-Frisk case in New York City?

I was approached by someone I knew from the PD, who had retired, named Dr. John Eterno. He was a former captain. He is a dean now at Molloy. He had been writing and hearing stories on this as well. He approached me and said, “Let’s do some research.” So we decided to look into this issue, but the police department had become very closed and exhibited a total lack of transparency. So we did a survey of retired captains and above, which had startling results and turned out to, the story appeared on the front page of the Sunday New York Times, which caused quite a stir a few years ago. That was a survey we did. And then we did subsequently a second survey. But the first survey and other research we did resulted in a book called The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation. We talked about this phenomenon of what they call downgrading crime, moving it from felony. The major crimes that are reported in the U.S. and in New York are what I have called felony crimes, the seven major crimes, that’s how police departments keep score and compare themselves with one another. But the way they were doing it was not taking crime reports. They were moving felony crimes into other categories that’s called misdemeanor crimes, which are not publicly known. There was manipulation. Part of the manipulation ran parallel with this enormous pressure from above to drive down crime and produce activities that they thought drove down crime, and not worry about any of the collateral effects and the impacts of these strategies.

When were you approached to testify for the trial? 

John and I were approached many months before the trial came to pass. We had discussions with them and they thought our research was relevant. The part of our research that they thought was relevant was the research, the two surveys that we did, 2004, 2008. In 2008 we did even a more extensive survey of retired people from all ranks of the police department, and those results were even more dramatic as we refined our survey. We found that the biggest up-tick in these pressures, in a number of areas including Stop-And-Frisk, occurred in 2002 in the Bloomberg-Kelly era. So the plaintiffs, the lawyers for the plaintiffs approached us. They wanted us to report on our research and testify. John could not testify because he was involved in the police department in some of these related activities. So it fell upon me to testify, which was one very stressful experience, but ultimately gratifying because the judge did cite our research, and the judge did cite my testimony, among many other things in her decision, but she did do that.

What changes do you foresee with District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s recent ruling on this controversial policing practice?

She wrote two decisions. One is the liability decision, which is goes through the whole thing. If you get a chance to look at, it’s unbelievable. This was a nine-10 week with tons of material and documents. She, when you read it, it’s like some 150-some-odd pages. I think it’s extremely comprehensive and extremely analytical. She goes through all this, and she just peels away the layers of the police department defense. The police department, there was an earlier case called the Daniels case, where the police department agreed to make changes, under what’s called a consent decree, no admittance of anything wrong. But in this case, the Daniels case, which has been in the works for many years, it was clear that these things that police department agreed to do, it wasn’t even a question of whether it was on the back burner or the front burner. It wasn’t on any burner. They were just narrowly focused on crime reduction. So these constitutional legal issues were not addressed. In fact, our second survey asked the question, whether there was a pressure to obey constitutional legal positions. That was the only area where the pressure decreased. In other words, while pressure to increase Stop-And-Frisk, summons, and arrests climbed, the pressure to really do it correctly, or as we said in the questionnaire, to obey constitutional legal rights, that went down. It was quite stark.

In answer to your question, the judge issued the liability, which goes through all this, and in the second decision, which is some 50-some-odd pages, I think, is called the remedy. This speaks to your question, I think. The remedy may be pretty stark. It’s uncertain now because she appointed a federal monitor. Now no police department wants to be overseen by a federal monitor, because they don’t like someone overseeing it. But the federal monitor has to report to the judge in terms of changes that she recommends in training, in changes in supervision, in changed in how forms are filled out. She recommended pilot precincts where the officers would wear cameras so it will record the interaction. So it’s not sully fleshed out what in fact will happen, but the potential is for something quite significant. Plus the fact that this is an open-ended, this introduction of a federal monitor, that she selected a lawyer. It’s open-ended, and it depends on what he works out and what the judge approves, and how long this goes on. So this could be quite a long-standing thing.

To me, it’s a very, very sad legacy of a fine police department that’s gone astray because the leadership has taken it astray. To have this record of crime decline, which we agree with, John and I, although from what we’ve ascertained we would guess it’s about half of what they claim. But nevertheless, to have this fine record, and then it actually being sullied by just the obstinance and the refusal to talk to anybody or any of the critics. The city council, as you may know, introduced the Stop-And-Frisk bill, and inspector general, and both of those were passed over the mayor’s veto. So there can be some very long-term implications. And it’s even more dramatic than that, because the New York so-called police model has been a model for not only other cities throughout the world, but throughout the U.S., but throughout the world. I just came back from Denmark where some of this stuff is percolating. I’ve been in Australia. I’ve been in Paris, which modeled this whole issue of performance measurement and management. If it’s done right it’s great, but it it’s done wrong it can have all these perverse consequences. And this has been spreading all over. And everyone now does know or will know what’s happened to the police department and their once fine reputation. Now it’s going to be a whole different ball game, and this model is not going to be be all for everyone. They’re going to have to look more carefully at how it’s done.

Some academics might be hesitant to get involved with such a controversial issue. So what do you say to critics who might question your objectivity as a scholar now, after your involvement?

You know, there’s an old saying, as a scholar all you can do is speak the truth as you know it to power. I mean, I was a reluctant warrior in this. I didn’t seek this out. In fact, when we first got our first survey results, we were floored. We were floored by the extent of it. And not only that, we had a place where they would write comments. And the comments… The interesting thing is, most of the cops agree with us. We get emails and comments and stuff all the time. But they have to remain anonymous, except for those who are recorded. I don’t know if you are aware, but there have been several who have recorded this stuff from their own station house, Schoolcraft, and Palenko, and others. So it’s not just us saying this. There’s tons of evidence to support it. But it was very stressful. At times I almost said, “Let’s forget it,” because the city did everything they could to keep me out from testifying, including demanding all our research, even the research that was not relevant to the court case.

We balked at that because it’s our research. We worked on it, and nothing to do with the court case. We had to agree that it would be held confidential. We gave some. But it wasn’t, I can assure you, it wasn’t something that I leaped into. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t feel that the plaintiff’s case was very valid and made sense, and really was for the good. Now obviously I’m now high on the party list of the NYPD leadership, which I was when I wrote the first book. But, you know, that’s just the consequences of doing this.

But I try, everyone tries to be objective, or everyone should. We tried to be objective. We tried to call it as we saw it. The city tried to throw out our results. They tried to negate it. They tried to keep me out. And at times I said to the lawyers, I said, “You know, this is too much. I don’t really need all this.” And they said, “No. No.” I said, “It’s just too much.” They said, “They’re doing it.” What they told me is that the other side was doing it in order to discourage me and keep me out.


What sort of lessons have you learned do you have from your experience with this case about academics entering a train that’s more frequently trod by activists and journalists?

I think academics have to make a judgment for themselves. Do they want to go forward with what their research uncovers? If they feel their research is valid, and they feel that it’s supportive of a valid cause, then I think every academic has to make a choice for him or herself, whether they feel they want to be supportive. And you know, there is an argument for academic research just not being academic and in the social arena. The interesting thing is, the interesting thing here is, you have to be creative in order to get the data, especially when an organization, and here you have a large organization or a large bureaucracy, is totally nontransparent. The police department has not provided data, not responded, and we spell this out in the book, freedom of information requests.

So the academic, if he or she wants to pursue that, then they have to be creative and say, “How else can I get at this topic, if the institution itself is not providing the, giving me access?” I had access in my first book. In this one we didn’t. But what we did, fortunately, John was a retired member, and had access to the retirees list. And so we did this first through a mail list, and second through a computer program. But you have to be willing. It’s time consuming. But if you believe in something, then you have to make a decision. Do you go forward, or do you just throw in the towel. And if you believe in something then it’s an individual decision, I feel. In the process, you’re going to encounter great obstacles, and there’s no question it’s going to be stressful. Doug Muzzier asked me in an interview, he said, “Who should play you in the movie?” He was being, you know, kidding. I said, “Someone who’s very nervous.”

But that’s the nature of the game. I know this from other academics I know who have testified in cases that by nature it’s very stressful. Even before you testify, in the pretrial examination they try to knock you out, and they try to dismiss what you’ve said. And then they provide. The second day I was there, I was presented with a chart of retirees and how they were. I’d never seen this. But the city lawyer presented it to me. The plaintiff’s lawyer and the city lawyer were going back and forth whether that should be entered into the record. I had never seen this chart. And I said to the judge, I said, “May I object, your honor?” And she said, “Yes, depending on what you have to say.” I said, “Well, this chart is bogus. It doesn’t represent what it pretends to.” And then she queried the person and the city attorney, and she didn’t allow it.

There’s a certain amount of risk. I guess that’s what I’m saying. And one has to make the judgment, is the risk worth taking. In this case, the fact that on my testimony and our research was one piece in the overall decision, was gratifying, and in a way a confirmation of our research.


Stop-and-Frisk Timeline

This timeline illustrates some of the major moments of, responses to, and influences on Stop and Frisk dating back to Terry vs. Ohio, the 1968 Supreme Court decision to the present Federal District Court ruling on Floyd v. New York City. Collected here are important documents, reports, and films, created by the state, activists, research and community institutions. In the comments, we welcome your suggestions for other entries to add to the timeline.


This post is part of the Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on Stop-And-FriskIf you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at justpublics365@gmail.com with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”

Introduction to Social Justice Topic Series: Stop-And-Frisk

Today begins our month-long social justice topic series which asks academics, activists, and journalists to reimagine New York City after the end of stop-and-frisk and to consider how civic engagement and greater democracy might be promoted for all residents. The first week of this month’s series, Stop-At-Frisk At A Glance, will provide an overview of the issue to-date. We will include a blog post on the connection between social justice and activism, as well as interviews with activists and academics in the field. Emily Sherwood, a member of the JustPublics@365 team, will introduce an interactive timeline about milestones in the Stop-and-Frisk story along with steps to creating your own digital timeline to use as a form of digital activism and social engagement.

The Morris Justice Project teamed up with the Illuminator to share some of the initial findings of their ongoing research into policing in the Morris Avenue area of the South Bronx. As a crowd watched from across the street, the Illuminator projected survey results onto a high-rise apartment building. Two short films were also projected: Julie Dressner’s New York Times op-doc “The Scars of Stop and Frisk” and “Community Safety Act” by The NYCLU and Communities United for Police Reform. Drummers from BombaYo provided a musical intro.”

Stop-and-frisk has been a tool used by the NYPD for decades, though in recent years the number of criticisms and grassroots protests around police tactics has increased tremendously. In the case of Terry v. Ohio (1968), the United States Supreme Court established a national legal basis allowing officers to stop, question and frisk citizens. This decision allowed police officers to stop and detain individuals based on reasonable suspicion rather than a higher level proof of probable cause. According to the NYCLU, New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002. Nearly 9 out of 10 of those stopped and frisked have been completely innocent with Black and Latino communities representing an overwhelming target of these tactics.

While Mayor Bloomberg and New York City police officials have stated stops-and-frisks are beneficial for decreasing crime, citizens of NYC affected by stop-and-frisk saw these tactics as intrusive, unwarranted and ineffective. Together with activists, journalist, and academics, the city of New York City organized to shed light on the realities of stop-and-frisk and on August 12th, 2013, the U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin found that the New York City Police Department had violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments in the way that they have conducted stop-and-frisks, thus ending a controversial policing experiment.

Click here for more information about our Monthly Social Justice Topic Series.

If you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at justpublics365@gmail.com with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”

Be Informed. Stay Updated. Stop, Question and and Frisk Policing Practices in NYC. A Primer (Revised).

Round Table Discussion on Stop-and-Frisk

The policing practice known as “stop-and-frisk” is a key feature in the oppression of African American and Latino people in New York City. In particular, the NYPD targets young men of color with practice. These encounters are often the beginning of being “caught up” in the criminal justice system.  It destroys individual lives, families, and entire communities.

Although the legal authority for street stops has existed since 1968 (based on the US Supreme Court decision on Terry v. Ohio) the kind of stop-and-frisk policing we see today really began in New York City in 2002 under the Guiliani administration. The number of stop-and-frisks continued to rise exponentially under Bloomberg’s administration. In 2011, some 685,000 people were stopped and frisked by NYPD, most were black and brown, and 90% were never charged with any crime.  Of the 10% who were charged, most were for small amounts of marijuana.

Yearly stops by NYPD from 2002-2011(Image from NYCLU)

On Monday, academics, activists and journalists met at the JustPublics@365 Summit on
“Resisting Criminalization.”  In one of three concurrent round table discussions, participants were invited to discuss ways to people in different arenas (academia, journalism, activism) might work together to “resist criminalization.”   All the invited round table sessions addressed three questions: 1) what’s the underlying problem? 2) how do we address it? and 3) what can we do when we leave here to create change?

What follows is a brief summary of the round table discussion on stop-and-frisk.

What is the underlying problem with Stop & Frisk? Many participants discussed the idea that over-policing of youth of color was based on essentialized ideas of black and brown youth as inherently criminal. Carla Barrett from CUNY John Jay drew disturbing parallels between the moral panic over ‘super-predator’ youth of 1980’s and today’s stop-and-frisk policies. Chino Harden of the Center for NuLeadership pointed out that this policing strategy does not result in fewer guns on the streets. The seizure rate of guns from these stop-and-frisk encounters is less than one percent by the police department’s own figures. The result, Hardin noted, was an increase in marijuana arrests. These charges act as a marker making future police interaction more perilous for our young people. She relayed a story that in her own police encounter, an unpaid criminal fine resulted in her arrest and incarceration. Annette Dickerson from the Center for Constitutional Rights emphasized that the problem of police mistreatment of minorities did not begin with stop-and-frisk and no court case (referring to Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al.) is going to end it. The struggle will be long.

How can we resist Stop & Frisk? Resisting Stop and Frisk comes in many forms. The facilitator of this session, Tara Conley (Media Make Change), is developing an easier to use version of the android app for uploading film of police encounters called TxtConnect. Steven Wasserman of Legal Aid said that he believes that the police view stop-and-frisk as a way to make ‘being on the corner’ uncomfortable for people of color. To which Annette Dickerson concurred, saying that ‘stop-and-frisk is part of somebody’s quality of lifestyle,’ connecting the politics of gentrification to over-policing. Other suggestions for resistance included sharing police encounter experiences over social media and print journalism. Chino Hardin also called for coming up with community-based solutions and not relying on police.  Another strategy she suggested was to build resistance via ‘a hood call’ where people hold police accountable by being visible presence when stops occur.

Tweet Screenshot
(See all the Twitter updates from this session here.)

What can we do when we leave here to end Stop & Frisk?  Everyone in the room wanted to not simply “resist,” they want to end it. Strategies for doing so included through alternate civilian patrols that would make minority neighborhoods safe for all (including LGBTQ members and elders). Great hope was placed in the change of mayoral administration as a means to affect change. As the participants agreed, “No one thought two years ago every mayoral candidate would have to have a position on Stop and Frisk. Now they do.” We just need to make sure a candidate whose position is to end it gets elected.

The archived livestreamed video of the event is here. To follow soon, we’ll post a more polished video recording of the panel discussion.