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Stop and Frisk a Decade Later: Uptown Radio Speaks to Jeremy Travis

LUCAS BRADY WOODS, HOST: Presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg faced repeated attacks at Wednesday night’s Democratic debate. One target - stop and frisk, a policing policy of random searches which Bloomberg expanded under his tenure. It was found to disproportionately target people of color and was later ruled unconstitutional. Jeremy Travis was President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice over the course of the Bloomberg administration. Almost 700,000 searches were recorded at the program’s peak. A decade later, I asked him about the ramifications and remnants of the policy, and if it still remains a problem.

JEREMY TRAVIS: It has had a lingering and very powerful effect in New York City, certainly on the young men who have been stopped. So there's some very important research that's been conducted on the psychological effects of being stopped by the police, being questioned and being harassed. And, if it happens more than once it has a cumulative effect. We should never ever discount that. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of young men, mostly, particularly young men of color, have been stopped by the police. And that's now part of their growing up experience. And the fact that stops have come down so much now means that the next generation will not have that experience. It's part of our memory now of how the police have interacted with the residents of the city.

WOODS: But you know, does it still exist today as a policy?

TRAVIS: Depends what you mean by the policy. Let's make a distinction. Does the legal authority still exist for police to stop somebody who they have reasonable submission is about to commit a crime? Absolutely. We shouldn't be surprised. In fact, I think we should be pleased to see that the police continue to use their legal authority to stop people who they think have committed crimes. But what the Bloomberg administration did and to a lesser extent, the Giuliani administration before it, was to make this a, from the top level down, from the police commissioner down, from the mayor down, a method for controlling crime. The logic was, we need this practice to keep crime rates down. That logic does not hold and that's the important distinction. So there's good news in that the footprint of the criminal justice system is far reduced. The bad news is that the the racial composition of those who are now being subject to criminal justice processing continues to be skewed and minorities making a larger share.

WOODS: Stops still disproportionately affect young men and LGBTQ people of color, what needs to happen for that discrepancy to stop in the NYPD?

TRAVIS: The city should be tracking, even at a low level, tracking the issue of racial disparities. That means, requires going back to the reasons for the rest, where the arrest being made, what can be done to think about diversion programs at the front end. The issue of racial divide, which is very powerful, has a historical genesis but is also something that can be worked on in the day to day workings of the police department.

WOODS: Mr. Travis, thank you so much for being with us today and talking to us about this.

TRAVIS: Thank you.


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