Stop and Frisk Policies Affect Women Too

From the New York Times

Shari Archibald’s black handbag sat at her feet on the sidewalk in front of her Bronx home on a recent summer night. The two male officers crouched over her leather bag and rooted around inside, elbow-deep. One officer fished out a tampon and then a sanitary napkin, crinkling the waxy orange wrapper between his fingers in search of drugs. Next he pulled out a tray of foil-covered pills, Ms. Archibald recalled.

“What’s this?” the officer said, examining the pill packaging stamped “drospirenone/ethinylestradiol.”

“Birth control,” Ms. Archibald remembered saying.

Stop and Frisk is an issue not only in New York City, but in Philadelphia, where I currently reside. Most importantly, despite crime consistently going up in Philadelphia, the police here think the tactic is working.

Philadelphia’s willingness to put police procedures under the microscope has won praise even from the civil rights lawyers who in 2010 filed a class-action lawsuit, accusing police officers of disproportionately stopping African-American and Hispanic men without sufficient cause.

“The city agreed almost immediately after we filed suit to come to the table and discuss an amicable resolution,” said Paul Messing, one of the lawyers, adding that he thought Mayor Michael A. Nutter and other officials “understood that this presented serious constitutional concerns.”

Yet finding the right balance has not been easy. City officials have watched in frustration as homicides have continued to climb. As of late Tuesday, 189 people had been killed in the city this year, compared with 169 at the same time in 2011.

In most cases, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said, both victims and perpetrators have been black or Hispanic men. “I think we have to face some realities,” said Mr. Ramsey, who is black. “We certainly do not want to be stopping people without the reasonable suspicion that we need to conduct a stop. But just because someone is complaining, and they want to play the race card, doesn’t mean it’s an inappropriate stop.”

But this isn’t about Philadelphia, it’s about the bolded passage (by the way, having met Commissioner Ramsey, i’m not surprised he said something so terrible). This is about how we’ve made the fact that women of color get frisked invisible, and we need to spread the word that not only is it invasive, but perverse.

Ashanti Galloway, 24, a security guard and day care worker, said she recoiled when an officer recently fumbled through her bag and pulled out a pair of pink Victoria’s Secret underwear and her bra.

“He had my clothes in his hand; it was my panties and my bra,” Ms. Galloway said. “I was upset. I felt violated. Powerless.”

Ms. Galloway, who provided her full name and address but asked The Times to use Ashanti, her middle name, for this article, said she was not frisked on that occasion, though once, last summer, a male officer patted her down.

“A male officer should not have a right to touch me in any sort of manner, even if it’s on the outside of my clothing,” Ms. Galloway said. “We’re girls. They are men. And they are cops. It feels like a way for them to exert power over you.”

or:

Crystal Pope, 22, said she and two female friends were frisked by male officers last year in Harlem Heights. The officers said they were looking for a rapist. It was an early spring evening at about 6:30 p.m. The three women sat talking on a bench near Ms. Pope’s home on 143rd Street when the officers pulled up and asked for identification, she said.

“They tapped around the waistline of my jeans,” Ms. Pope said. “They tapped the back pockets of my jeans, around my buttock. It was kind of disrespectful and degrading. It was uncalled-for. It made no sense. How are you going to stop three females when you are supposedly looking for a male rapist?”

Despite barely finding any guns the  low rate being 0.13% chance of finding one:

The training does not draw a distinction between male and female suspects, Police Inspector Kim Y. Royster said.

“Yes, it’s intrusive, but wherever a weapon can be concealed is where the officer is going to search,” Inspector Royster said. That search is not random; it is based on information provided to an officer, like a detailed description of an armed suspect, or actions that raise an officer’s reasonable suspicion that the woman may be armed, she added.

And although the police stops of women yielded very few guns, they did produce 3,993 arrests last year.

“Safety has no gender,” Inspector Royster said. “When you are talking about the safety of an officer, the first thing he or she is going to do is mitigate that threat.”

Many people, like myself thought a male police officer had to summon a female officer to conduct a frisk, however

That belief, though incorrect, is shared by many women, said Andrea Ritchie, a civil rights lawyer and co-coordinator of Streetwise and Safe, a nonprofit organization that focuses on police practices that affect young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are also members of ethnic minorities.

It is only after a woman is arrested and brought to a police precinct that a female officer is summoned to conduct a “thorough search,” according to the Patrol Guide.

There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for these horror stories, but maybe by spreading the word, we can start mobilizing some sort of movement to end this practice.

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