In the last 11 years, the New York City Police Department has conducted a staggering 5 million stop-and-frisks. Of those who were stopped and patted down for “seeming suspicious,” 86 percent were black or Latino, according to an NYCLU report. In 2012 alone, police made 533,042 of these stops with 89 percent resulting in no arrest or ticket.
The city insists that the policy keeps guns off the streets. But young black and Latino men describe scenes of fear and toxic stress, of always wondering if the cops are going to throw them up against a wall, strike them, and arrest them.
Claiming that the stop-and-frisk program feeds on racial profiling and violates the constitutional rights of New Yorkers, the legal advocacy group Center for Constitutional Rights filed Floyd, et al v. City of New York, et al, a federal class action suit that seeks to stop the abuses plaintiffs say are built into the program.
The Floyd hearings began last Monday and are expected to continue for weeks or months. As is often the case in legal proceedings, the hearings will stay mostly in the legal weeds. That can make it easy to forget that this is about the day-to-day lives of millions.
One of those is the man the case is named for, David Floyd, a 33-year-old medical student. Colorlines.com caught up with the lead plaintiff in the biggest cop suit around as he was leaving New York City for school after a week in the city to testify in court. He told us that he’s been stopped and frisked twice and that, as an activist, he’s felt and witnessed the trauma that these day-to-day encounters cause.
Watch Floyd tell his story in this exclusive Colorlines.com video.
—Seth Freed Wessler