New York Times' Bob Herbert

*Cities, towns, villages and hamlets hire police to ensure that laws are followed, obeyed and not broken.

In a perfect world, citizens expect that laws are fair and balanced, not too restrictive and are created for the benefit of all.

Police that are hired are expected, justifiably, to enforce those laws and apply that enforcement fairly across the board, without regard to race, creed or color.

And, one should expect that the police are hired to keep the peace, not act as thug enforcers, hired to allow its citizenry the freedom to walk through those cities, towns, villages, hamlets and, let’s add ghettos, unencumbered.

Unfortunately, that is not the case in the 21st century, wasn’t in the 20th century, either. A February 2 New York Times article, written by columnist Bob Herbert, exposes the farce of so-called police protection in New York City, statistics that can easily be apply to any large city.

The content of Herbert’s piece focused on an inordinate amount of random police stops of ordinary citizens of color. Here are a few interesting items Herbert brings up, taken from existing 2008 and the first nine months of 2009 statistics (final 2009 statistics will be released within the next several weeks):

“During that period, more than 450,000 people were stopped by the cops, an increase of 13 percent over the same period in 2008. An overwhelming 84 percent of the stops in the first three-quarters of 2009 were of black or Hispanic New Yorkers. It is incredible how few of the stops yielded any law enforcement benefit. Contraband, which usually means drugs, was found in only 1.6 percent of the stops of black New Yorkers. For Hispanics, it was just 1.5 percent. For whites, who are stopped far less frequently, contraband was found 2.2 percent of the time. The percentages of stops that yielded weapons were even smaller. Weapons were found on just 1.1 percent of the blacks stopped, 1.4 percent of the Hispanics, and 1.7 percent of the whites. Only about 6 percent of stops result in an arrest for any reason.”

So, what are we to surmise from that? In black and white (no pun intended), a person of any ethnicity, either visiting or living in New York City, may reasonably expect to be stopped for whatever reason a policeman feels. Herbert points out that a large percentage of people stopped were for the following reasons: “People are stopped for allegedly making ‘furtive movements,’ for wearing clothes ‘commonly used in a crime,’ and, of course, for the ‘suspicious bulge.’

It begs the question: Just what is proper clothing “commonly used in a crime”? That puts Wall Street stockbrokers and financial workers that wear, say, Brooks Brothers into a criminal category of their own, considering their brazen plundering of America’s financial system, not to mention the usury that credit card companies get away with daily. And just what defines a furtive movement? According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of “furtive” is: “moving in a stealthy manner.” That means anyone can be stopped for walking slowly or too fast, break-dancing, skipping, shuffling, anything that can be construed as any movement that isn’t in alignment with the general populace – whatever that means… Then what does one do if a “suspicious bulge” is noticed by a policeperson. That puts everyone who has a phone or wallet in his/her pocket in danger of being frisked. What if it’s a natural bulge, like a Subway Sandwich, and not a gun, knife, club or whatever? Heaven forbid if it’s from a Viagra moment. In other words, the meaning for stopping anyone is open to broad interpretation, a dangerous position to take in a society that touts itself as “free.”

Herbert closes his piece with a shocking reason that is held by the New York City Police Department: “The Police Department insists that these stops of innocent people – which are unconstitutional, by the way – help fight crime. And they insist that the policy is not racist. Paul Browne, the chief spokesman for Commissioner Kelly, described the stops as ‘life-saving.’ And he has said repeatedly that the racial makeup of the people stopped and frisked is proportionally similar to the racial makeup of people committing crimes. That is an amazingly specious argument. The fact that a certain percentage of criminals may be black or Hispanic is no reason for the police to harass individuals from those groups when there is no indication whatsoever that they have done anything wrong.”  

Truer words have never been written. It is a sober indictment of the state of the world, and America, today. Here is the link to the full article, a read that is worth checking, HERE.