‘Stop and Frisk’ Often Leads to Public Sexual Assault

New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy has attracted worldwide headlines thanks to its naked injustice and profiling; 85% of those stopped are Black or Latino, and of all people of all races stopped, 82% were innocent of any crime. For young men of color in particular, the constant threat posed by stop and frisk is a concern when leaving the house, spending time around the neighborhood and going out with friends. If they fail to produce ID, comply with orders from police or respond as desired, they can be harassed, beaten or worse.

As Kristin Gwynne highlights at AlterNet, stop and frisk procedures can also cross the line into sexual harassment; they often involve ungloved handling of the genital area, with aggression that is entirely unnecessary. She documents the practice of “credit carding,” sliding the hand between the buttocks (often ungloved) to look for contraband, and points out that this is humiliating and degrading for subjects. Officers of both genders engage in such practices, usually in public, which adds to the humiliation experienced by the subject of the stop.

This is not a frisk or patdown, but a much more extensive search, one which requires both privacy and a warrant. Under the law, contraband found in a stop and frisk search conducted this invasively may not actually be acceptable as evidence, but many young people are not aware of this, and may be facing stiff charges for finds like marijuana or other drugs. Gwynne notes that once drugs are pulled out of a hiding place, they’re “in public view,” which results in harsher penalties, but of course they wouldn’t have been in view in the first place if a police officer hadn’t dragged them there.

The Center for Constitutional Rights conducted a detailed study on the human impact of stop and frisk policies to learn more about how it affects individuals living in their communities. Sexual harassment, sexual assault and inappropriate touching have all been reported by the subjects of stop and frisk searches, many of whom also note that protesting can result in being charged with resisting arrest. Some cases have involved forced public nudity and other abuses of privacy and dignity, with young victims terrified to advocate for themselves because they fear the consequences.

Notably, transgender people and other people who don’t fit gender norms are often subjected to particularly invasive and rough searches to “confirm their gender,” many of which cause emotional distress and also take the form of sexual assault. These can include having the genitals and anus grabbed or penetrated, as well as being forced to strip so that officers can examine the genital region. Such searches go far beyond the scope of a simple “frisk” and are a violation of the law as well as the dignity of the subject.

As the controversy over stop and frisk rages, it’s important to integrate conversations about sexual harassment and assault into the discussion, because all people should have full body autonomy and the right to protect themselves from inappropriate touching. The assault of young men and women of color in the name of public safety is a cause for significant concern, especially since it plays into larger social concerns about the bodies of people of color and how they are treated and judged by society. No one should have to submit to an invasive and illegal genital exam for fear of punishment, and such abuses certainly do not make for a freer or safer society.


Related articles:

NYPD Pot Arrests Target Minorities

LGBT Join Coalition Against ‘Stop and Frisk’ (Video)

Threatened With Arrest “For Being A F**King Mutt” (Video)


Photo credit: longislandwins


Stephanie Reap
Stephanie Reap6 years ago

Saw a video of two women who were stopped. The officer said he smelled marijuana but searched the car and found nothing. But he didn't stop there...he calls for a female officer to search the two women. The woman cop uses the same glove to internally examine both women and did it roadside!!!

Brian F.
Brian F6 years ago

I think that the police in America are the real criminals who bully everyone else around so they can feel important. This police state that we have become is a direct result of the police treating us all like we're criminals who must prove our innocence. Why were the OWS protesters sprayed with mace, beaten and arrested. Because they stood up
to our Wall Street criminals who stole millions and were never even charged.

The police are the paid thugs who protect our criminal judges and court system that administers our racist drug laws that inprison our poor, black, and latino inmates for minor drug crimes while the real criminals who stole millions on Wall street go free.

katarzyna phillips

i think that's a step too far. too many officers in america think that just because they 'represent the law' that they are able to go above and beyond it and are untouchable as a result. i question whether the 'officers' who have done this are trying to get some sort of sexual stimulation from it, whether it is by forcing people to do as they say [dominance] or by publicly embarrassing their victims [which could be argued to me as masochistic in nature]. if that does come to be true, then are these the type of people we want to hand out 'power' to?! in principle, i agree to the standard 'patdown', but i think if you want to do a more invasive search, not only does it have to be away from the public eye, but there should be an ACTUAL reason for it; and there should be other officers from an institute to check that appropriate guidelines are being followed. and people/victims should also be read their rights and complain if they feel they have been violated. if enough people complain, surely something should be done about it? here in the uk, we have the independent police complaints commission, or ipcc which looks into the conduct of officers and has the ability to take further action against the individual [officer], as a result of investigating the case further.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari L6 years ago

Amadou Diallo. Enough said about NYPD.

Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago


Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W6 years ago

Karen, I grew up in that area and I can tell you going back to the 1960's at least, that NYC cops have ALWAYS been fascists! I still recall all the trials over police assaults in the 70's and 80's.
And for NYC, these searches are borderline legal. The point is that the cops are supposed to shake down people looking for weapons, which almost no one carries. But once any contraband is out of a pocket, they can be arrested for it.
Once in court, most lawyers will get you off with a fine, but what the cops have already done to you is moot. The judges don't care and don't want their dockets filled up with the Bullshit.

And let's not forget that the cops pretty much didn't bother the OWS much UNTIL Wall St. bankers and execs got together to make a Million dollar donation to the NYCPBA. Then the head-cracking commenced.
Don't look to King Bloomberg either. He likes things this way. The more terrorized the public is, the less hassle they are to herd.
I've seen most PD's are like this. They do NOT work to protect the public anymore. They don't care if they are trusted or admired. They just enjoy their power and paycheck.
Notice how it's the ONLY union the Pubs never curse.
I will continue to push for reforms so that our public protectors should be answering to US, Not the Powers-that-BE. It should be our public force, NOT THEIRS!!

Karl Murphy
Karl Murphy6 years ago

I cannot believe this is legal. Yet another step towards a police state.
They take a little freedom here and there so no one notices or causes a nationwide scene, and then one day you wake up realizing you are under Martial Law.
They've been slowly disarming us too, It starts with outlawing high capacity mags, then taxes and restrictions on bullets, then ban specific rifles, then rifles themselves, then no handguns, and then they can do whatever they want, who is going to resist them?

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

Why should TSA have all the fun? Let's get all real and pretend law enforcement in the 'touch my junk' party.

Mark B.
Mark Bales6 years ago

This business of fingering the public is outrageous! They keep pushing the public to see what they can get away with. Just try to protect yourself from this kind of indignity and watch how fast you become a felon and ineligible for a firearm.

Jefferson said we would know the purpose for the Second Amendment when the government comes to confiscate your guns. How true.

Cathy C.
Cathy C6 years ago

You know, if I were a female cop and Jake Gyllenhall looked like he was packing a secret weapon, I'd have to frisk him really good. Maybe more than once.