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      Friday
      May282010

      Stop-and-Frisk as Domestic Counterinsurgency

      Back in the US, police departments developed and expanded a hardline gang-enforcement effort targeting young men of color. Stop-and-frisk programs amounted to domestic counter-insurgency. Between 2004 and 2009, police stopped and frisked such young people three million times, even though "upward of 90 percent of the people stopped are completely innocent of any wrongdoing."

      New York Police Department numbers revealed that 2.8 million stops were made, including 1.4 million African-Americans and 843,816 Latinos. The names were entered into a mammoth and secret database, "indefinitely, for use in future investigations," according to a New York police commissioner.[1] The process was condemned as "Jim Crow policing," by columnist Bob Herbert.[2]

      In Los Angeles, during a period known for police reform, the same policies were aimed at underclass youth. According to a Harvard review of LAPD data, pedestrian and car stops leaped 49 percent from 587,200 in 2002, to 875,204 in 2008, mainly in gang neighborhoods.[3] Stop-and-frisk interviews grew, with the information sent to the gang database. A key Harvard finding was that the stops increased not so much for Part One offenses – homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor theft – but for non-serious Part Two offenses – disorderly conduct, prostitution, DUI, drug offenses. Only fifteen percent of all stops were for Part One offenses. The police, according to the Harvard study, were deciding to "use arrest powers more aggressively for less-serious crimes."

      The number of juveniles arrested for Part Two offenses doubled from 1990. While citing improvements from the past, the Harvard team concluded that "our direct observation of the LAPD confirmed for us that the culture of the Department remains aggressive; we saw a lot of force displayed in what seemed to be routine enforcement situations."

      None of hundreds of citizens' complaints about racial profiling were sustained by police investigators through 2007.

      The bottom line: in 2009, there were 395 arrests per day in Los Angeles, 95 of them drug-related, and another 298 for what Harvard experts call "minor crimes." 

      Despite years of reform efforts, there can be only one conclusion drawn from the Harvard data: that law enforcement chooses to apply street arrests, gang data bases, and mass incarceration - domestic military solutions - to a crisis of the underclass that is racial, social and economic. "No other nation treats people who commit nonviolent crimes as harshly as the US," writes American University professor William LeoGrande.[4] 


      [1]  Herbert, Bob. "Watching Certain People," New York Times, March 1, 2010.
      [2]  Herbert, Bob. "Jim Crow Policing," New York Times, February 1, 2010.
      [3]  Harvard Kennedy School, "Policing Los Angeles Under a Consent Decree," Stone, Foglesong, Cole, May 2009.
      [4]  LeoGrande, William. World Policy Journal.

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