Kasiem Just Wants to Move Freely without Fear
By Terrance Pitts & Rashid Shabazz
Kasiem’s first stop-and-frisk happened when he was thirteen and on his way to school.
“You want to end up in jail?” the police asked the frightened teen, as they searched his pockets.
Since then, the Brooklyn teen has endured seven more of these episodes.
Released today, Kasiem’s story is the first of four short documentaries in the Where I Am Going series, launched by Communities United for Police Reform. Each tells how an ordinary New Yorker—Kasiem, a police officer, a mother, and a clergyman—has been affected by the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy.
For Kasiem and his friends, stop-and-frisk has become part of life, interrupting routine activities like leaving the supermarket or returning from football practice. They live in constant fear of being harassed by the police.
They aren’t alone. From 2002 to 2012 the number of stops of New Yorkers grew sevenfold, from under 100,000 to over 685,000. In 2012, the number dropped to 532,911 after an organized community response to unconstitutional stops.
And the searches’ racial element is just as striking as their volume: In 2012, 87 percent of the New Yorkers stopped were black and Latino.
This is not an effective crime fighting policy. It does very little to get guns off the street. In fact, the rate of gun seizure is miniscule—only 0.15 percent, which is lower than the rate of gun seizures at random checkpoints. There is no credible study demonstrating that stop-and-frisk has played a meaningful role in stopping crime, and the practice nets few criminals.
Only six percent of stops result in arrests, and another six percent result in summonses. Most of these arrests are not for violent crimes, but for “quality-of-life” offenses like public drinking and riding bicyles on the sidewalk. The majority of individuals are not stopped because they fit the descriptions of violent crime suspects but for vague reasons like “furtive movement.”
As President Obama noted in his recent speech addressing the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, our society needs to confront its implicit bias against black men and boys. We hope Where I Am Going will raise awareness about the impact of stop-and-frisk and racial profiling, and spark frank discussions about race, policing, and community safety.
You can help: Sharing stories like Kasiem’s is the first step in helping end the dangerous, ineffective practice of stop-and-frisk.
Until January 2016, Terrance Pitts was a program officer for the Justice Fund at the Open Society Foundations.
Until February 2015, Rashid Shabazz was a program officer with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement.