There’s a very interesting dynamic between the ongoing controversy over the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” procedures and the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) “one-sizefits all” security screenings at airports across the nation.
Civil rights groups in New York are demanding that the Police Department change its methods of stopping and questioning individuals on the street, claiming that too many minorities are being targeted. Meanwhile, the TSA seems to stop and scrutizine every man, woman and child—regardless of age, color or race—before they board an airplane.
Is one policy better than the other? Should law enforcement agents stop everyone or just those who may fit the description of a suspect?
There are accusations that the NYPD stop-and-frisk policy is nothing more than racial profiling. The New York Civil Liberties Union reported that in the first three months of 2012, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 203,500 times, and 181,457 were innocent (89 precent). Of those questioned, 108,097 were black (54 percent); 69,043 were Latino (33 percent) and 18,387 were white (nine percent).
Hearing the growing call for changes to the NYPD stop and frisk policy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly went to the First Baptist Church in Brownsville, Brooklyn on Sunday, June 10 to defend the policy of street stops.
Bloomberg told the congregation that 10 murder victims in the week of June were all black or Hispanic young men and he proceeded to read their names and ages. “Sadly, 96 percent of shooting suspects are black and Hispanic,” the mayor reported.
Bishop Gerald Seabrooks also told the congregation that “there is a lot of crime in the African-American community. You can stop me 25 times a day,” he said. However, he added that “you have to treat people with courtesy.”
Some members of the Police Department may be less than courteous when using stop and frisk procedures, but as the mayor has said, “the program should be mended, not ended.”
The TSA—whose security procedures have been known to border on the absurd—has already made changes to its policies. The agency recently announced that it would allow travelers 75 years of age and older to leave their shoes and lightweight jacket on when they pass through airport screenings at four U.S. airports.
Of course, this only happened after an 85-year-old woman was strip-searched and a baby’s diaper was removed in an extreme searching procedure.
The NYPD should make improvements to its stop-and-frisk policy where necessary to prevent those who are questioned and released from feeling insulted or humiliated. However, it cannot abandon this procedure because it is crucial to the job of which they are tasked: to protect and defend all the people of New York, regardless of race, color or creed.
We need to remember that the world isn’t perfect and that there are bad guys who seek to do others harm. Airport screenings and stop-and-frisk procedures are uncomfortable for a few, but nonetheless a necessity to keep the public safe.
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