By Charles Louis Dominguez ’14
It is everyone’s duty to combat discrimination, wherever it occurs.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “(Those) who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
This echoes my feelings towards New York State Criminal Procedure Law section 140.50, also known as New York City’s “stop-and-frisk” program.
The program grants New York City police officers the authority to stop, question and frisk any person they suspect is “committing, has committed or is about to commit either a felony or a misdemeanor.”
It hopes to preclude crime or catch it in its tracks by searching suspicious persons for weapons or other contraband.
The law opens up endless possibilities for legalized racial discrimination.
In 2012, 532,911 New Yorkers were stopped by police officers, according to data recorded the New York Civil Liberties Union. Eighty nine percent of those stopped were found to be totally innocent.
Of the whole group, 55 percent of those stopped were black, while another 32 percent were Latino.
It is condescending to imagine that people of color should be comfortable around a police force that, statistically speaking, targets them.
In this case, the discomfort and anger is reasonable.
My own frustrations towards policies like “stop-and-frisk” have absolutely nothing to do with African Americans or Caucasians.
Everyone has an obligation to fight for the rights of other citizens. It is not a matter of race, it is a matter of people—human beings.
If the police are given the power to frisk citizens based off of seemingly arbitrary observations, we run the risk of breaking the already blurred line of trust between citizens and law enforcement officers.
But is the risk worth the reward?
One of the biggest issues with “stop-and-frisk” is that it just isn’t effective.
Punishing the 11 percent who actually violated the law isn’t worth the sense of distrust and violation raised within the other 89 percent.
It’s just a bad policy; it raises racial tension, distrust and potentially violates constitutional rights.
At the heart of things, people just deserve better.