(RNN) - Racial profiling has been in the news in the aftermath of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin, which spurred protests and brought out President Barack Obama's assertion that he has been profiled in the past.
In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, the police force of the nation's largest city has taken sharp criticism for its "Stop and Frisk" program, which targets the city's minorities, according to statistics.
Police officers can stop individuals they deem suspicious and frisk when they suspect the subject is in possession of a weapon. A person doesn't need to be committing a crime to be stopped by the police.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg credits the tactic, which has been in place since 2002, for deterring criminal activity. Indeed, Bloomberg vetoed two attempts Tuesday by the city council to rein in Stop and Frisk, according to the New York Daily News.
Detractors say the tactic unfairly targets young black and Hispanic males, the majority of whom are not arrested. They claim the program is largely ineffective, doing more harm to community relations than good.
"[I]nnocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and ... black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD's own reports," The New York Civil Liberties Union stated in their report on the tactic.
In 2012, 54.8 of the stops were of blacks and 31.8 percent were of Latinos. Whites accounted for 9.7 percent of those stopped.
Although young black males and Latinos account for just 4.7 of the city's population, they made up 40.6 percent of those stopped. More than 90 percent were found to be innocent of any crime.
Young white men represented 9.7 percent of those stopped.
In more than half the stops, police targeted people for what they called "furtive movement."
Police frisked subjects in more than 50 percent of the stops, with blacks and Latinos representing 89 percent of those frisked. Those stopped in poorer neighborhoods had a greater chance of being frisked, the NYCLU report noted.
Of all frisks in 2012, only 2 percent resulted in a weapon being found, but more were arrested for marijuana possession than any other offenses. This is despite marijuana possession being a crime "only when burned in public or openly carried in public."
Bloomberg's office defended the policy of targeting minorities in the New York Times by stating "more than 90 percent of murder suspects were identified as being either black or Latino." This defense was lobbied despite the fact that vast majority of those stopped were found to be innocent of any crime.
Bloomberg went so far as to suggest, during his radio show in June, that the NYPD weren't targeting enough minorities, comments that proved controversial for the lame-duck mayor, who leaves office on Dec. 31.
The Stop and Frisk practice has resulted in lawsuits, one of which threatens to bring Department of Justice intervention.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office bemoaned the toll this strategy has on community relations. He wants to "bring parity to the law and decriminalize public view with 15 grams or less" of marijuana, according to a statement on the governor's website.
In a short film, The Scars of Stop and Frisk, the New York Times shared the story of a young black man who said he has been stopped-and-frisked about 60 times allegedly as a result of racial profiling. Though he was taken to the precinct and made to wait for hours for asking why he was being frisked, he said he was never charged with a crime.
Blacks and Latinos weren't the only minorities subjected to police scrutiny. According to the Associated Press, the NYPD formed a Demographics Unit to spy on Muslim communities, even those who are second- and third-generation citizens.
A New York Times opinion article by Ta-Nehisi Coates bashed the unit, characterizing it as unproductive and discriminatory.
"Despite this sprawling fishing expedition extending up the Atlantic coast, NYPD officials admitted in a subsequent court case that the unit's work had not yielded a single lead, much less the opening of an actual case," he stated.
The police commissioner during the era of Stop and Frisk, Ray Kelly, is currently said to be under consideration for the National Security Administration's top post. The prospect of Kelly in such a national position horrifies opponents of Stop and Frisk.
"Commissioner Kelly's crime-fighting strategies have been found to be abusive and racially biased," Anthony Miranda, chairman of the National Latino Officers Association, said in a press release. "Commissioner Kelly's enforcement policies leave no protection to people's basic rights or civil liberties; the rights and liberties that distinguish this great nation. Kelly's appointment would lead to an all out assault on the citizens' constitutional protections, an unbridled attack on communities of color."
Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
"bring parity to the law and decriminalize public view with 15 grams or less" of marijuana.
730 North Summit Street