A small but important victory took place last week for communities against “Stop and Frisk”, the controversial NYPD program. The program, which allows police to stop people and frisk them for drugs and weapons, has been under fire from all directions for targeting people (particularly young men) of color. As we’ve written before, an offshoot of “Stop and Frisk” is the “Operation Clean Halls” program in which landlords allow police to enter buildings to implement stop and frisk policies in order to stop potential trespassers. Unfortunately, like most factions of this racist program, it is the tenants and the guests who suffer. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the NYCLU have filed lawsuits against the program, and have collected case after case of tenants who have been targeted and policed in their own homes.
Last week, the Bronx District Attorney announced that it will refuse to prosecute anyone charged with trespassing unless the arresting officer is interviewed to ensure that the arrest was actually warranted In a letter from Jeanette Rucker, the DA’s bureau chief for arraignments stated “in many (but not all) of the cases the defendants arrested were either legitimate tenants or invited guests.” (As reported by the NYTimes.)
The hope is that through interviewing the arresting officers, less innocent victims will be charged with trespassing. As I’m sure readers are aware, there are all sorts of consequences when a person enters the complicated and flawed criminal justice system, which greatly impacts their future. When someone comes in contact with this system unjustly time and time again- particularly to young men of color- there is an enormous impact on the community at large. All I’m saying is someone in power should read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.
While the change in the Bronx’s DA is positive, it is clearly not enough. Not only should all DA offices in the city follow this new policy, but we need to continue to push for the end of “Stop and Frisk” and heavy policing of communities of color altogether. We need to rethink our criminal justice system in a way that moves apart from SB1070, Secure Communities, and Stop and Frisk. We need a more creative and just system that protects us rather than one that results in collective punishment.