Columns

Hauptman ’14, Soloway ‘14.5, Souza ’14: It’s not about crime…

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Guest Columnists
Monday, October 28, 2013

It’s about Brown’s legitimization of racial profiling. Imagine that New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s aggressively promoted stop-and-frisk program were to be implemented at Brown. If New York stop rates were replicated proportionally on campus using data from last year, 411 undergraduates would be stopped in one year. Eighty-seven percent of stopped individuals in New York happen to be black and Hispanic people. There are approximately 1,165 black and Hispanic undergraduates at Brown. Thirty-two percent of black and Hispanic students — 373 total — would be stopped and frisked. Only 1.2 percent of the white student population — 41 of 3,295 — would face the same treatment.

The uproar would be swift and intense, especially because of these 411 stops, 366 would be entirely unwarranted, leading to the discovery of no open containers, no dimebags, certainly no weapons and no charge at all. Policing in New York, where these numbers are a daily reality, is a racialized phenomenon. Black and Hispanic people are presumed guilty and deserving of constant invasions of privacy, and white people are not.

In reality, Kelly’s stop-and-frisk program is far more controversial than a laudatory Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions event invitation would suggest. Here is an event in which racially motivated street stops are referred to by New York Police Department spokesperson Paul Browne as one of many “proactive policing strategies” that he claims are responsible for New York murders dropping by 49 percent over the past 10 years. There’s actually very little scholarly consensus that Kelly’s department’s frisking practices are the root reason for New York’s crime decline, and according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, “no research has ever proven the effectiveness of New York City’s stop-and-frisk regime.”

For starters, the city’s crime rate decline, which began in the early 1990s, is part of a larger national trend of declining crime rates — an over 40 percent reduction in most American urban areas. Many criminologists credit the decrease to “broken windows policing,” investigating and prosecuting low-level crimes to maintain order, and “hot spot policing,” staking out and over-policing neighborhoods with more crime — both of which are practiced by Kelly’s department. But academics also point to the effects of increased prosperity, the legalization of more reproductive choices for women and a large reduction in crack cocaine use. In fact, stop-and-frisk looks more and more ineffective once you look at the fact that “while violent crimes fell 29 percent in New York City from 2001 to 2010, other large cities experienced larger violent crime declines without relying on stop-and-frisk abuses: 59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas and 37 percent in Baltimore,” according to the NYCLU.

Secondly, claims made by the NYPD to justify “proactive policing” are just plain false. Browne claims 5,628 people in New York can thank programs like stop-and-frisk for saving their lives, when actually the drop in the murder rate occurred before New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s time in office and before stop-and-frisk. As the NYCLU writes, “the year before the mayor took office there were 649 murders in New York City. In 2011, there were 526 murders.”  Kelly himself has claimed “there’s no denying that stops take guns off the street and save lives,” when in reality only 0.2 percent of stops uncover guns — a figure that does not justify the physical invasion, harassment and intimidation of tens of thousands of innocent people. There are other ways to get guns off the streets.

In the 2013 decision Floyd v. City of New York, part of a class action lawsuit against Kelly citing him for unconstitutional racial discrimination, former NYPD captain and New York State Senator Eric Adams testified about a small meeting he attended in July 2010. Former New York Governor David Paterson, Adams, other policymakers and Kelly were all present to discuss a bill related to stop-and-frisk. Adams raised his concern that a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic people were being targeted for stops. Kelly responded that he focused on young blacks and Hispanics “because he wanted to instill fear in them, every time they leave their home, they could be stopped by the police.”

There is something profoundly wrong with the Taubman Center presenting Kelly as unequivocally responsible for the crime decline while failing to mention the abuses he has propagated. In fact, in August of this year, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the NYPD’s current stop-and-frisk tactics are in violation of the Fourth Amendment and cited the proven racial biases of the program as violations of citizens’ civil rights protections. Stop-and-frisk as it currently functions has literally been ruled illegal by a federal judge. Kelly’s instrumentality in racist policy-making is not up for debate. In this situation, what is up for debate is the implication of giving a racist a unilateral stage at Brown by sole virtue of his being a powerful man.

Stop-and-frisk is much more than a matter of constitutional law. This program, in conjunction with other policies in the criminal justice system, effectively criminalizes non-whiteness and feeds into the prison industrial complex. By bringing Kelly to Brown uncritically and creating no space for opposing narratives, Brown commits itself to privileging the righteousness of this man’s actions and adds to the criminalization of people of color in this country.

 

Megan Hauptman ’14, Sophie Soloway ’14.5 and Josette Souza ’14 welcome questions and comments and can be reached at sophie_soloway@brown.edu.

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18 Comments

  1. “By bringing Kelly to Brown uncritically and creating no space for opposing narratives, Brown commits itself to privileging the righteousness of this man’s actions and adds to the criminalization of people of color in this country.”

    Is your problem really that he is being brought here uncritically? It appears to me that people would have been hostile to Kelly coming to campus even if it were part of a debate. Also, how is bringing Kelly to Brown creating no space for opposing narratives? My guess would be that you could ask questions after he is done talking and get a rare chance to actually question someone whose policies you have a big problem with. You just posted an opposing narrative with this BDH article, and that was able to go through just fine. If people at Brown prevent Kelly from showing up, isn’t that in a way eliminating the space for a narrative that opposes your view?

    • I think the heart of the criticism is more so trying to get at the ‘uncritically’ fact. Kelly is being portrayed as an accomplished hero by the center. We could bring the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church to campus ‘for the sake of debate’, but why would we? Taubaum is PAYING Kelly to come speak. That’s not right.

      • whereisyourmoneycomingfrom says:

        Do you know if he’s getting paid? How do you know? And it is coming out of the endowment from the lecture, not students’ tuition…

  2. Can the online version of the herald institute a policy that cited sources be linked in the articles so that one may go to the original source material? Not criticizing this article in any way – in fact, I think its excellent references are what made me realize that this policy is needed.

  3. Legitimizing and giving space for narratives that negate our very right to live with dignity and respect as human beings? No thank you. Giving space to a man responsible for the death of several innocent youth? No thank you.
    Thank you for taking the time to write such a powerful article. I’m proud to go to uni with such fierce women!

    • Where was your protest when Ron Paul came to speak? This is a man that would send us back to Jim Crow….he literally thinks the Civil rights Act of 1964 is unconstitutional

      It seems clear that the movement to silence Ray Kelly is one out of pure distaste for his policies. Is there no room ever for debate if people disagree with you? One could claim that any policy “challenges my identity” and thus doesn’t warrant a debate. Is there not a debate to be had about banning prayer from public places because one could be a religious person? Is prohibiting flag burning alright because it challenges one’s “identity as an american” ? The need for dialogue should trump individual conceptions of identity.

      • It isn’t about challenging my identity. It’s about RACIALIZING my identity and equalizing it to crime. It is an institutionalization of dehumanizing methods. It is a tactic to pathologize Blackness, to pathologize the existence of latin@s, muslims, asian-americans. That’s what it’s about.

        Racial profiling is about the lives of

        “Reginald Doucet Jr. 25. Unarmed. Shot & killed by officers in front of his home after a night out. Officers not charged in shooting.

        Raheim Brown, Jr. 20. Shot 5 times, twice in head after police claimed he attacked them with screwdriver. Witness said no attack occurred.

        Kimani Gray, 16. Shot 7 times by plainclothes officers who say he threatened them with a gun. Witnesses publicly contradicted this claim.

        Trayvon Martin, 17. Unarmed. Shot & killed by neighborhood watch. Shooter released on self defense.

        Amadou Diallo, 22. Unarmed. Officers fired 41 shots, 19 of which hit him, after he reached for his wallet. All 4 officers were acquitted.

        Sean Bell, 23. Unarmed. Killed day before wedding. Officers fired 50 rounds into his car after suspecting he had a gun. Officers acquitted.

        Rekia Boyd, 22. Shot in head during when an officer fired blindly at a nearby suspect. Charges dropped when officer didn’t show up to court.

        Oscar Grant, 22. Unarmed. Shot & killed after being handcuffed by officer who “mistakenly” grabbed gun instead of taser.

        Niles Meservy. Unarmed. Police shot him 7 times in back after suspected getaway attempt. Killed. Officer cleared of all charges.

        Aaron Campbell, 25. Unarmed. Walked backward towards police with hands up, surrendering. Shot & killed with assault rifle.Officer acquitted.

        Victor Steen. Unarmed. Chased by police after committing traffic violation on bicycle. Struck & killed by police cruiser. Officers uncharged.

        Steven Washington, 27. Autistic. Shot in head & killed when officers thought he was drawing a weapon. He was unarmed. Officers not charged.

        Robbie Tolan. Unarmed. Shot in his driveway when officers suspected the car he was driving was stolen. Tolan owned the car. Officers acquitted.

        Kendra James, 21. Unarmed. Shot by officers, then left to bleed out in the street. Died. Officers acquitted by federal grand jury.

        James Jahar Perez, 28. Unarmed. Pulled over for failure to signal turn. Shot & killed after what police claimed was an altercation.

        Aiyana Jones, 7. Unarmed. Shot in head/neck & killed when officers raided home in Detroit in an attempt to arrest her father.

        Tarika Wilson, 26. Shot & killed in police raid to arrest her companion. 14-month old son was also shot. No officers charged.

        Nathaniel Jones, 41. Unarmed. An obese man who was shot & killed by police. Police chief uses Jones’ obesity to justify his death.

        Deandre Brunston, 24. Unarmed. After a standoff with police, the officers fired 81 shots at him – 22 of which hit Brunston’s body. A police dog that was injured during crossfire was airlifted to a vet center, while Brunston was left bleeding out where he lay.

        Latasha Harlins,15. Shot in back of head & killed after Korean store owner thought she was stealing. Died clutching money for item in hand.

        Are we on a common ground regarding what this is about now? “challenging my identity”, what the hell. Just… smh

        • Yet, if you are the eduarda who I believe you to be, an active member of Students for Justice in Palestine, you have no problem racializing the Jewish identity? No problem calling ISrael an “apartheid state”, implying that judaism is a race? No problem racializing that issue to portray the big bad white Jews taking care of the non-whites.

          • Hi Jefferson, yes I am a member of Brown Students for Justice in Palestine and we are a group that stands for justice and dignity for all.
            BSJP is an anti-racist student organization and I think you need to inform yourself a lot better, instead of making vicious accusations anonymously to excuse your own racism. 🙂 The group has never presented the simplistic and plain narrative/analysis you are describing.

            That said, I will no longer engage in conversations with you right here because you show no regard for the lives of those being oppressed here in the United States and abroad. As you clearly know who I am, feel free to contact me, in case you are interested in learning about collective liberation and anti-racist work. You are also invited to come to BSJP’s events so in the future you are better informed.

          • “radicalizing the Jewish identity” – oh wait bro, what’s up. Something wrong in calling a spade a spade as to what happens in Palestine. I mean if a few fanatic settlers want to do it in the name of their religion, you have a problem calling it out for what it is – apartheid. What exactly is your problem.

  4. liberal fascism…. Typical of liberals to claim fealty to having opposing views and narratives and yet to undercut that open discourse by appealing to a narrative of demagoguery, as per eduarda’s comments.

    • butts henderson says:

      lol. did you know that michael bloomberg is a liberal? or are you proudly claiming racism as exclusive to conservatives? as bad as you may want the sole rights to discrimination—and as much as i wish your brain-dead comment represented its only form—systemic racism exists in every part of this country.

      whether ray kelly is here for discourse or propaganda is irrelevant. this conversation has no business occurring on an ivy league campus—it should be held in the streets of the neighborhoods dominated by ray kelly & his goons. the only reason he can come here is because it is a safe space for elites, the very same people who chose ray kelly and the nypd as the domestic wing of the cia and the private security force for the banks who robbed this country blind.

      i bet you think of yourself as one of those “moderates” who are “down to earth” because you wear jeans. try taking two seconds to look around and maybe you’ll realize that liberalism and conservatism are a single-party farce, united under the unquestioning banner of corporate greed.

      as an aside, aren’t people who crow about “liberal fascism” supposed to be concerned about civil liberties? don’t let jonah goldberg and rush limbaugh convince you that they give two shits about reality, politics, you, or anyone other than themselves.

  5. AskHimIfIt'sConsitutional says:

    I agree that the “legitimizing” principle is an important one to be aware of. But I wish that demands made to the Taubman Centre had been more focussed on making this a space where these principles could be questioned and criticized, rather than demanding that Kelly be silenced. I would have happily signed the petition if the demands were to invite a professor or advocate of an opposing view to debate with Kelly. Are we really going to be able to fight racial profiling if we are more interested in silencing its voices than arguing with them?

    • The director of the Taubman Center has said, in a phone call with student organizers, that this event was not designed for debate. On that note, I would like to invite you to come to the vigil tonight at 7:15 at the Faunce Steps as well as to the action update that will take place afterwards. You could talk to some students about your opinion, which I think is a valid one and would generate good talks.

  6. Fantastic article. I hope some folks attend the event and hold him accountable for this racist policy.

  7. citizens arrest, plz.

  8. While I don’t support stop and frisk, the way it has always presented is almost always “this is so evil and needs to be destroyed.” I would be very interested in hearing a supporter speak, even if I take everything he says with a grain of salt.

    It also concerns me that a bunch of Brown students think they know so much more about policing than the New York City Police Commissioner. Enough that they think he should be silenced on issues of policing. He didn’t get that job by being dumb and ineffective, so he probably has at least a couple pearls of wisdom that can be gleaned from his talk. I’m sure at least a couple experienced people weighed in on the heavy decision to randomly search people on the streets of one of the most important cities in the world, so lets hear why they did what they did. Even if it was wrong in the end.

    Also, nothing is more embarrassing for a speaker than an empty audience. Your protest guarantees that much more of campus will hear about this event and probably attend. And obviously the center won’t cancel the talk, because it never does. So this protest seems about as effective as your dreaded stop and frisk policy…

  9. It doesn’t matter what hes said or done. It’s still sad and childish that smart students lowered themselves to yelling and interrupting–things more suited for lower schoolers. The way to win an argument isn’t by silencing the other person, its done by letting them speak, analyzing their argument, and proving them wrong.

    Everyone already knows that Brown is liberal and mostly opposed to “stop and frisk”. We didn’t have to scream about it to get the point across.

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