The concept of civil rights and the violation of these rights have been on the forefront of most news headlines recently typically involving police officers and unarmed citizens. Civil rights are defined as, “the rights of individuals to receive equal treatment (and to be free from unfair treatment or discrimination) in a number of settings- including education, employment, housing, and more – and based on certain legally-protected characteristics.” Keeping these promised rules in mind, society is in a state of outrage and panic after reading about the treatment of innocent citizens. One policy causing detrimental controversy is the stop-and-frisk policy which is essentially comprised of stopping and searching people who appear ‘suspicious’.
According to a study done by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the stop-and-frisk policy has no effect on the crime rate in New York. The issue is that the headline was, “NYC Police Said Stop-and-Frisk Reduce Violent Crime” when in reality, they do not have any correlation. This tagline encourages citizens to believe this tactic is effective in deterring crime, but the number of minority people who are stopped and frisked is disproportionate and continues to violate their civil rights.
According to civil rights attorney, Jon Norinsberg, under the fourth amendment, police are allowed to stop a citizen if they have reason to believe that the person has committed a crime. Furthermore, the fourth amendment reads, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Essentially, we are protected from unequal treatment and our civil rights should not be violated.
The Wall Street Journal reported that 87% of the 684,330 stops in 2011 were people of African American and Latino decent. The Washington Post asserts that 80-90% of those who are stopped each year have not committed a crime. These stop-and-frisks seem to be targeted to singling out minorities and inventing a reason to search these people. Often times, this leads to false arrests.
Some examples of civil rights violations include:
- Illegal arrest for loitering
- Wrongful death of suspects
- Withholding medication from inmates
- Police brutality
- Sexual abuse by police of prison staff
- False arrest
- Excessive use of force
- Retaliatory arrest
- Racial profiling
- Cruel and unusual punishment in custody
As you can see, false arrest and racial profiling are two instances of civil right violations which is why there has been so much friction between citizens and those who enforce the law. The stop-and-frisk policy has been causing friction within society due to the subjective opinions of what ‘suspicious’ behavior looks like and which racial groups are being singled out by “fitting the description”. However, there has been a recent federal court ruling where Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the practice of “stop and frisk” — at least the way New York cops do it — is neither constitutional nor race-neutral.