Cant Stop (and Frisk) Me Now!
The CNN Breaking News Alert hit my computer screen. The controversial New York policy, Stop and Frisk, had been struck down as unconstitutional and in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by Judge Shira Scheindlin. This is the law which permitted stops of people, because they were "young and they're black and their hats real low." Immediately my spirit was all:
Haaaa. Can't touch me now.
Alas, at work, I had to hide my contentment and excitement to something more akin to:
Excuse me, I need to praise tweet.
In the few hours since the announcement, there have been tons of questions and commentary, and perhaps more concern about Bloomberg's legacy than about the several other aspects of Stop and Frisk, notably the humanity of an entire group of people.
In a separate announcement today, Eric Holder has found a solution to the increasing prison population by addressing the draconian drug laws that cause several people with minimal amounts of illegal drugs to serve long minimum sentences. Eric Holder's announcement also called for releasing aged prisoners who weren't threats. "We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, deter and rehabilitate – not merely to convict, warehouse and forget," said Holder. Whether for economic or humanistic reasons, people appear to agree with Holder's decision. To be clear, Holder declared a policy, but Congress has not yet changed a law.
The inextricable tie between Stop and Frisk - a practice that often only harassed but would sometimes lead to prison under the drug laws in the failing War against Drugs mentioned by Holder is clear. What isn't clear is the solution and this is what the pundit circuit is taking to the tweets and to the air to determine.
Thank God pundits don't directly determine law.
What's at stake is the life of families, the mental fortitude of our fellow citizens, and the police's ability to do a proper and thorough job without overstepping the rights of individuals or discriminating based on race, class, gender, and location. There are times that the conversation has to get ugly. There are times when harsh realities and statistics about different groups must be discussed and when clever statistical maneuvering on both sides of the fence cease to serve as fruitful and only remain as marketing ploys that do not push conversation and society forward.
This is less about who legislates a viable solution into being and more about what solutions survive in a city fraught with crime. There should be a court monitor to ensure that something is done. The camera solution - wherein cops would wear cameras that record the stops- seems flawed and easy to corrupt, as well as potentially violating some other law (not sure which one, but one of them). In order for this to work, there must be community involvement and discussion. At the least, this would instill buy-in and a shared sense of responsibility.
Not to continue making cheesy plugs for civic participation, but you do want to think about who would make the choices you agree with in this situation. We vote with our eyes, tweets, and clicks for which personalities we appreciate the most, but that means nothing if you do not back it by employing your civic agency in the ways that you can.