Racial profiling goes by many names. Call them “terry stops” or “stop and frisk,” but for young black and Latino men, harassment from the police is a routine part of life. In New Orleans the data tracking system’s technically referred to as FICs, for “field interview cards.”
Laura Maggi reports for the Times-Picayune that for the first time, New Orleans’ new police chief Ronal Serpas’ has instituted a policy of using FICs to measure police performance. According to Deputy Superintendent Kirk Bouyelas, since 2009 the NOPD has been entering data it gathered from so-called field interview cards that documented stops that didn’t result in arrests. The information was going into a central system that the NOPD has been using to help make arrests.
But more troubling, there are hints that Serpas is using stop and frisks as a way of measuring productivity; the more police harass civilians, the better their performance.
At one Comstat meeting this summer, NOPD leaders looked at a chart that showed the 8th District, which includes the French Quarter, with higher FIC totals than the city’s other seven police districts. Last month, Deputy Superintendent Marlon Defillo praised the 8th District at Comstat, saying its record of field interviews was “outstanding.”
The practice of questioning, rifling through the belongings of those suspected of being guilty of a crime, and then recording people’s personal information is, Maggi writes, “a staple of urban policing.” Young black and Latino men are statistically much more likely to be among those detained in police stops.
Last week the Louisiana chapter of the ACLU asked that the department turn over its information on the policy. The city blamed decentralized record-keeping for not knowing how many people have been stopped and frisked.
In July New York Gov. David Paterson signed a law forbidding New York police from maintaining records of the people they encountered during stop and frisks. The new law also demanded that New York delete the database it had been keeping, which both Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly hailed as an important crime-fighting tool. Both said that people in the stop and frisk database sometimes were also eventually found guilty of other crimes. In New York, it turned out that 88 percent of those stopped were black or Latino.
Last week Dionne Grayman wrote for WeNews about watching her son become conditioned to routine harassment from the police:
In addition to the coming-of-age conversations parents have with their children, black parents have to add the “What to Do WHEN You Are Stopped By the Police” talk to the list of ones they have with their sons. We have to, for their safety and our sanity.
The saddest part of all of this is he’d begun to become “immune” to being stopped. He, like too many other men of color in this city, had become desensitized to being treated criminally. They take it as par for the course; they shrug it off and most will laughingly share their war stories. But listen closely and you can hear anger comingled with humiliation and a weary, reluctant acceptance.
Not exactly the stuff that dreams are made of.