Stop-and-frisks are brutal assertions of police dominance on African American men, through sexual harassment, torture and even terrorism
The officer must feel with sensitive fingers every portion of the prisoners body. A thorough search must be made of the prisoners arms and armpits, waistline and back, the groin and areas about the testicles, and entire surface of the legs down to the feet.
Police Manual, 1954
Heres what happens when you are stopped and frisked. You are walking to work on a Monday morning. The cop car stops suddenly, two men with guns jump out, and they order you to face the building and put your hands up. They put their hands roughly all over your body, one squeezes something in your pocket and asks you, Whats that? You take out your asthma inhaler and show it to him. They pat you down one more time and then they just leave. They dont apologize. Your neighbors are walking by, some looking at you sympathetically and others like they are wondering what crime you committed.
You feel humiliated.
Or you are going to visit your mom in the projects. The lock on the door to the lobby is always busted, and the buzzer to her apartment is broken too. You just hope the elevator is working because you dont feel like walking up eight flights of stairs. Again.
You open the door and enter the lobby. Four cops are waiting. You recognize a couple of them from your previous visits to the neighborhood. One officer asks where you are going. To visit my mom, you say. Put your hands against the wall, another cop says. Why? Im just going to visit my mom. Trespass is the answer. You tell them, Im not trespassing. They surround you.
Now its a situation. You put your hands on the wall. They kick your feet to spread your legs wider. They make you take off your cap, they pat you up and down, they touch your private parts. Other people entering the building look away partly to preserve your dignity and partly because they hope that if they pretend not to notice the cops, the cops will pretend not to notice them.
Nobody coming inside the building uses a key it would be ridiculous because the lock is broken. The cops write you up a citation for trespass. One of the officers you have seen before pulls you aside and says when you go to court just bring proof of your mothers address and the judge will dismiss the case. Then they let you go. You hate them with every fiber of your being.
What does it mean when police go around touching people who are, in the eyes of the law, innocent? Stop-and-frisks are brutal assertions of police dominance of the streets, communicating to African American men through three ways of feeling a black man sexual harassment, torture and even terrorism that they are objects of disdain by the state.