Commentary

A Conversation with Joshua Jordan ’16: Race and Stop-and-Frisks

*On Thursday, May 7, Culver Duquette sat down with Joshua Jordan ’16 to interview him on his experience with law enforcement in Queens, NY.*

My goal in conducting this interview is not to impress a particular opinion upon the reader but, rather, to use an Andover student’s reality – Josh’s reality – to illustrate a greater point. There is an undeniable relationship between race and law enforcement in the United States, and it is essential that we remain well-informed about this interdependence in order to formulate our opinions. Once we have established a common ground of knowledge, we can initiate a real, meaningful discussion on race and, thus, better our society.
Because most Andover students will never experience the type of treatment from law enforcement officials that Josh faced, it is very important that we hear Josh’s story. The reality is that the slew of students who file in and out of Cochran Chapel every Wednesday will one day have the resources to change the world. If we are cognizant of these issues of inequality and become comfortable speaking about them, perhaps one day we will lead in ways that attempt to eradicate them.

**What experience have you had with stop­-and­-frisks – where does it happen, and when has it happened to you?**

“Last summer, I was about five blocks from my house – just playing basketball in the park. Then suddenly, all these police officers came in, and they pushed us against the park gates. They walked right up to us, pushing us against the gates, patting us down. I kept saying, “What did I do?”, but they just swore at us, told us to shut up and kept patting and patting us down. And then, after they let me go, they just said, “Alright, go on with your day,” and just walked out. No apology. No nothing.”

**Nothing provoked them?**

“Nothing. Just kids playing basketball in the park – maybe one or two other old dudes just chilling in the park­­. Sometimes the park [has] some crackheads in it, but we did nothing. They just walked in and patted us down. I had to show them my ID. That was it. There have been a lot of times when cops have just pushed my friends against the wall for nothing – stuff like that. They just have no regard for how people feel. Their demeanor isn’t exactly friendly in going about it either – it’s just like, ‘I’m gonna do my job, I think you have something, and I’m going to push you against the wall.’ That’s it.”

**How often do you either experience, witness or hear from a friend about frisking incidents?**

“With regard to stop-and-frisk, not a lot, but with regards to just police encounters, all the time. It’s kind of down to the point where there is no trust for the police. You see them, and it’s not as if they are out for safety and protection – they are there to harass people and are looking for a problem.
At my school, it got to the point where they said we couldn’t be in the park after school ended. They began to pat us down by the playground. It’s literally just a playground – little kids playing – just like the one right next to [Paresky] Commons.”​

**Does the aggressive policing make the neighborhood feel any safer, and do you feel any safer?**

“No. It almost enhances the danger of living there because you don’t want to get in trouble, and you’re so worried about it. Sometimes it seems like police officers have an itchy trigger finger, so you don’t want to get on [their] nerves. You know other people get the police riled up, and so a lot of times just being in the wrong place at the wrong time and just being an innocent person can get you in trouble.
I would be more okay with [strong policing] if it happened on an equal level between African-Americans and whites, but it doesn’t. The language in the stop­-and-­frisk policy is very weird because if someone ‘looks’ suspicious, the police can stop them. How do you define suspicious? Black? Wearing a hoodie? It gets to the point where an officer looks at someone and is like,­­ ‘Dark skin? He probably has something on him, let me check.’”

*When contacted by* The Phillipian, *the New York Police Department’s 113th Precinct declined to comment.*

Here are the facts:

New York Criminal Procedure Law § 140.50​ states, “[…] A police officer may stop a person in a public place […] when he reasonably suspects that such person is committing, has committed or is about to commit either (a) a felony or (b) a misdemeanor defined in the penal law, and may demand of him his name, address and an explanation of his conduct. […] in addition […] he may search such person for a deadly weapon or any instrument, article or substance.”

In New York City, black people and Latino people accounted for 84 percent of police stops in 2014. Even in predominantly white neighborhoods, black people and Latino people are disproportionately stopped; one New York Civil Liberties Union study in 2011 revealed that, although blacks and Latinos only comprised 24 percent of the Park Slope community, they made up 79 percent of police stops.

In New York City, where stop-and-frisks are very prevalent, the violent crime rate has fallen by 29 percent from 2001 to 2010. In the same time period, violent crime fell 59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas and 37 percent in Baltimore: none of these cities utilize extensive stop-and-frisk programs. Guns are found in only 0.2 percent of New York City stops.

The fact is that race plays a significant role in what the police considers “suspicious” and who they stop: the statistics do not lie. Joshua Jordan was merely playing basketball. What was it about Josh that could have possibly made him suspicious to the officer that frisked him – if not the color of his skin?

The above numbers illustrate that stop-and-frisk programs are largely ineffective in detaining actual criminals and disposing dangerous weapons. Instead, frisks are a pervasive, fear-driven infringement upon the rights of these neighborhoods’ residents of color. The police become something just as dangerous as the crime they are meant to protect residents from. Ironically, the same institution that is meant to protect our freedom is actually stripping away that freedom from black people and Latino people. Instead of finding real criminals, this flawed law enforcement system attempts to create new ones where there are none.