Let's be down front about this. It's high noon for New York City's Stop, Question and Frisk policy, as implemented by its Police Dept. The drama started when it was revealed that last year, around 685,000 people, most of them black and Latino, were stopped by police. The overwhelming majority had done nothing more than look suspicious. The battle lines were quickly drawn. On the one hand, the Mayor and Police Commissioner stood by the practice, and promised a "return to the bad old days" if it were eliminated or substantially altered. On the other side were those advocating for everything from a radical alteration of stop and frisk to it's complete demise.
Earlier this week, The Nation.com released an audio recording, part of a larger documentary on the practice. It was, to say the least, chilling. The audio was one of the first instances that a stop and frisk was exposed to the wider public. It wasn't pretty. The young man involved, Alvin, aged 17, was stopped twice, two blocks apart in Harlem. If you want to hear what transpired, I'd seriously suggest you watch the video presentation on thenation.com.
There's another aspect to this, however. Also in the video were conversations with two police officers, one with a decade on the job. They themselves had a problem with stop and frisk. One said something that should send a chill down the spines of all New Yorkers, regardless of race or ethnicity. He said, "The civilian population, they're being hunted by us. Instead of being protected by us, they're being hunted and we're being hated".
Hunted and hated. These words should never refer to the relationship between police and the communities they're sworn to protect. The excesses of stop and frisk are spreading through some neighborhoods like a cancer, and mistrust of police, quiet as it's kept, can allow criminals safe harbor where there should be none.
The City Council held a hearing yesterday to consider a series of bills that would reign in those very excesses. The Mayor and Police commissioner didn't show. That was a mistake on their part. The more entrenched their position becomes, the more strident the calls for change.
I've said this before. It's past time for the interested parties here, and there are many, to sit down and expose, then reconcile their differences. The people of this city deserve a police department they can trust, and the police deserve a citizenry that respects what they do.
This can happen, can't it?