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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Day 14: Are You Afraid of the Police?

A few days ago, I came across an article in this month's Ebony magazine where writer, Kevin Chappell, discussed NYC's stop-and-frisk policy and how more people feel violated by the officers rather than protected, as their slogan promotes.

"It's called a 'street interrogation' or 'stop-and-frisk'," explains Chappell in the opening sentence. "And some say the New York Police Department's practice of searching people who are walking on public streets--sometimes at gunpoint--has gotten out of control." I've read stories, some of which have been fictional, about minorities being harassed by their city's finest. A plethora of instances where African-Americans have been pulled over simply because of their skin color and I remember thinking, police officers are really doing this??

A few days before, I read a similar blog post, or it could have been a published article, by Demetria Lucas. She shared her story of the many times she was pulled over in the DC/MD/VA area because of her complexion . Like me, she assumed that because she was a woman, she would never experience such foolishness, despite her father's warnings. Six different times, she had run-ins with the police, three of which she admits were her fault (speeding tickets). The others were bona fide BS.

Chappell goes on in his article to inform us that something as trivial as one walking down the street is enough to catch an officer's attention, especially if there is a "suspicious bulge" in the pedestrian's pocket or they seem "suspicious" altogether. At that point, the pedestrian turned victim is now subject to anything "from a simple pat down or handcuffing to officers pointing a gun or administering pepper spray". All this without even finding a weapon on the victim.

I continued to read the article in amazement almost as I couldn't believe that stuff like this actually happened. Like I said before, I was used to seeing this type of stuff play out in television shows. At that moment, it dawned on me that I shared this same apprehension when dealing with police. Growing up, I would always straighten up whenever a cop car was near. There are times when I have to catch myself now as an adult from doing it. Especially, when I know I'm adhering to the rules.

I pray that I never have to endure that type of discrimination and I hurt for ones that already have. Police officers are hired to protect and serve. Hell, it's painted on the side of their cars but to know that there are some who abuse that power is disheartening. Don't get me wrong because with all that this world has become, I know that precaution must be taken but in Chappell's article, he points out the target minority group who are the victims of these random stops.

"Last year, the NYPD conducted 685, 724 street stops. Of that number, 350, 743 (54 percent) involved Black people being stopped," he states.

He even provided statistics from 2011 study that showed Black and Latino males between the ages of 14-24 make up 4.7 percent of the city's (NYC) population; however, they make up 41.6 percent of stop-and-frisks.

To say that it is sad for us to have to still deal with racism and discrimination in 2012 is an understatement. In my opinion, we will forever be viewed as inadequate in the eyes of the majority and the fact that it is based on skin color is even more sad. I would love to see a change but I'm afraid we have reached the point of no return.

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