Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hunting 250s: “We’re going to go out there, and we’re going to violate some rights.”

This video, published by The Nation, captures one incident of a kind that occurs about 700,000 times a year to New Yorkers.  Except if you're white.  The young man in this video, the son of a cop, was stopped multiple times in one day, for the “suspicious” behavior of wearing a hoodie and a backpack, and “looking” at the police.  In other words, walking while black.

Know any white people this happened to?  Anyone on the Upper West Side?  According to a New York Civil Liberties Union report (see here and here), 90% of those stopped are black (23% of the population) and Latino (29% of the population).  In fact, more young black men were stopped by the NYPD in 2011 than there are young black men in New York City.  Really, let that sink in.  Who’s running the NYPD, Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly, or George Zimmerman and Geraldo?

The “keep crime down and guns off the street” rationale for these blatantly unconstitutional stops is phony, undermined by their own results. 90% of these stops result in no arrest.  Fewer than 2% discover a weapon, and those weapons are found twice as often on whites.  I somehow doubt this will result in whites being stopped and frisked at double, let alone seven times, the rate of Blacks and Latinos – even though that is precisely what the “objective” computerized statistical efficiency evidence would demand, if the real reason for this practice were “to keep crime down and guns off the street.”  Everybody knows harassment like this  – particularly with such meager results – would not be tolerated if it were happening to “middle-class” white kids in upscale neighborhoods – kids who, everybody knows, are as likely as anyone in Harlem to be carrying around illegal drugs.

This is not about safety or crime or guns.  It’s about reminding minorities and the poor of their place, by continually forcing them to be submissive to the Man.  It’s racially-profiled harassment.  The statistics practically force that conclusion.  Fortunately, judges – and even prosecutors – are starting to come to, and act appropriately on, that conclusion.

This video is particularly instructive, because it also shows how these practices force cops, many of whom are non-white, and most of whom, we like to think, would actually prefer to be helpers rather than hunters of all the people, to submit to the criteria of “productivity” embodied in the Compstat system.  This perversely Fordist system evaluates police performance, on the individual and precinct level, on the basis of computer-driven statistical criteria, rewarding those with the higher, and punishing those with the lower, number of stops and arrests.  One might think, in a rational society with a rational policing policy, that there might be a system that would recognize fewer arrests as a marker of success.  The methods of measuring “efficiency” in the overtly authoritarian context of a capitalist factory are not quite what’s needed to promote decent, cooperative community-police relations in an ostensibly democratic, if unequal, capitalist society.  As the officers in this video complain, the Compstat system actually has the police working not to prevent, but to produce crime.

Turning police work into number crunching  helps turn cops into hunters, and citizens into haters of the police.   And, since the cops know which areas are definitely Posted: No Hunting, and which game has low, and which no, bag limits, all that hunting and hating has to end up concentrated in a few neighborhoods and a few ethnicities.

Combined with the draconian drug laws, it does become an ongoing war within certain sectors of society, kept largely invisible from the comfortable rest, until a recording like this comes out.

We should recognize what we see here:  This is 21st-century New York City Jim Crow.  It’s a racially- and ethnically-differentiated system of rights and privileges.  Some classes of people have the right and privilege to walk down the street in a hoodie, and to look at a cop, without being harassed, detained, physically assaulted, and possibly arrested by armed agents of the state.  For others, those are prima facie suspicious, “enemy” activities, which in themselves justify interrogation, et. seq., by the army of occupation.

However “Bull” Bloomberg tries to euphemize it, he knows quite well that his precious stop-and-frisk would end the first day it was enforced equally by race, ethnicity, and neighborhood.  

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