D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham’s Feb 24 letter, “MPD: Stop and frisk is essential,” was a mass of inconsistencies, untruths and fearmongering.
In February, Mr. Newsham testified under oath that the Metropolitan Police Department does not practice stop and frisk, then repeatedly used the same term to describe incidents with community members. In his letter, he said, in essence, “Yes, D.C. police use stop and frisk, but in a legal manner.” Yet the public doesn’t know exactly how MPD uses stop and frisk because the department is ignoring the law requiring detailed data collection and reporting.
What we do have is a mountain of evidence suggesting MPD uses stop and frisk in the same racist, unconstitutional manner as in New York. For instance, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan recently dismissed a gun possession case because MPD “randomly trawl[ed] high crime neighborhoods asking occupants who fit a certain statistical profile.” Over six years, courts dismissed about 40 percent of D.C. gun possession cases, suggesting pervasive unconstitutional behavior by MPD. In the nearly 50 years since the Supreme Court allowed for limited stop and frisks, the evidence has shown the practice is racist and ineffective and actually makes people less safe.
As D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) rightly noted in her Feb. 17 Local Opinions essay, “End stop and frisk in D.C.,” “Stop and frisk traumatizes our neighbors without making our neighborhoods safer.”
We must ban this racist, counterproductive practice.
Sean Blackmon, Washington
The writer is core organizer and communications director for Stop Police Terror Project DC.