stop-and-frisk Archives - The Jose Vilson


Stop And Frisk These Test Scores

by Jose Vilson on August 12, 2013

in Jose

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly

I’d rather have a tall glass of “innocent until proven guilty,” whether it’s about my standing as a citizen in NYC or my students’ test scores.

This month has been rather unsuccessful for Mayor Bloomberg and two of his political postures: his stance on stop-and-frisk and his direction in education reform. Despite what comes out of his office, everyone ought to recognize it as a major fail, and a blow to an already tarnished third term.

I can’t tell you how quickly my jaw dropped when I saw my school’s test scores. I didn’t get a glimpse of them, but when I heard only ~30% of students “passed” the English or Math test, AND that the scales were aligned to the NAEP, I knew NYC would be in some trouble. I sighed, and hoped none of my students took the drop personally. Only a handful of eight graders at my school got a 4, the highest level possible.

I can’t understand the games some adults play with their lives, especially when they tie these scores to all types of notions, including their scholarships, honors classes, and their actual ability as students.

Then I read this by Diane Ravitch and almost flung my phone at someone:

The state didn’t just “raise the bar.” It aligned its passing mark to a completely inappropriate model.

The state scores have four levels: level 4 is the highest, level 1 is the lowest. In the present scoring scheme, students who do not reach level 3 and 4 have “failed.”

NAEP has three levels: “Advanced” is the highest (only about 3-8% of students reach this level). “Proficient” is defined by the National Assessment Governing Board as “solid academic performance for each grade assessed. This is a very high level of academic achievement.”). “Basic” is “partial mastery” of the skills and knowledge needed at each grade tested.

“Proficient” on NAEP is what most people would consider to be the equivalent of an A. When I was a member of the NAEP governing board, we certainly considered proficient to be very high level achievement.

New York’s city and state officials have decided that NAEP’s “proficiency” level should be the passing mark.

They don’t understand that a student who is proficient on NAEP has attained “a very high level of academic achievement.”

And then it hit me. The fact that we can’t even compare any one year with other years for the last decade speaks volumes about the sorts of education policy we’ve encountered in NYC. To bewilder, anger, and frustrate parents, students, and educators across the city looks less like collaborative learning and more like a shakedown.

Speaking of which, a judge ruled today that “stop-and-frisk,” questioning or otherwise, is unconstitutional. I wish Bloomberg, Ray Kelly, and the NYPD would have stopped this nonsense back when we deemed it inappropriate. Despite 57% of white residents of NYC approving of stop-and-frisk, it rarely affected them. 86% of those affected were Black or Latino, and at a 12% success rate, it did more to agitate relationships between certain communities and the Giuliani-inspired police state.

In both instances, it’s very easy to blame the system for its inefficiencies, or the people who lead these systems as some politicians do. It’s more appropriate to hold the right people accountable for the direction NYC has gone in for the last decade. That’s why mayoral control ought to mean.

We can’t say the teachers didn’t teach when scores go badly and take the credit when scores get inflated. We can’t take pride in stopping and frisking Black and Latino youth, yet continually tell these communities that it’s what’s best for them. The citizens of NYC demand respect, as parents, as citizens, as people seeking a better way.

As a person affected by both of these initiatives, I thought to myself, “What if we stopped frisking my students and stopped and frisked education reformers with quick fix disaster plans coming into our public schools? What if we created environments that cared for our most disenfranchised?”

In the meantime, I implore all of you reading to stop and frisk those test scores. You might find, as Bloomberg did, nothing at all.



p.s. – photo courtesy of


On Saturday, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous spoke to the Netroots Nation crowd around one of the organization’s pivotal efforts: ending New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy [and preventing said policy from spreading to other major cities]. His impassioned speech made me tap my feet, blanking out to the sounds of an aggression unaddressed by the larger progressive communities. While he spoke, I noticed two halves of my table, one who listened intently on what Jealous had delivered to a mostly Caucasian, Democratic crowd and the other faction a set of people who would scream bloody murder if such a policy affected their clique, but it didn’t, so they ignored it.

Alas, for so many of us, the stop-and-frisk policy aligns with the general dispassion towards the condition of others locally except when directly affected. In a town replete with activists and do-gooders, young Black and Latino men getting stopped and frisked by police officers on the basis of their looks follows the narrative of certain populations somehow deserving such treatment. In this narrative, young men of color commit the most crime, do the most harm to society, put the biggest burden on their general populace, so when they do get stopped randomly for no apparent reason, that helps reduce crimes that haven’t been committed yet.

In this narrative, we get to perpetuate the stereotype of this specific group as local terrorists. And it’s wrong.

As a native of NYC, I can say I’ve never been stopped and frisk. Unfortunately, that makes me the exception that proves the rule. The statistics lie so heavily against people that look like me that I often wonder how I avoided such a fate. Maybe a cab finally came down for me. Maybe I didn’t stop at my favorite bar that one night. Maybe I had on my lucky shoes the few times it could have happened to me. It’s happened to friends who I had appointments with that day or it had just happened to. On their way to school, back from school, to their girlfriend’s house, on their way to church, to their mother’s house.


Stop and frisk doesn’t just emasculate the (very often) innocent; it continues the legacy of this specific group as second-class citizens. How do we expect citizens of this country to believe in this country’s values when we don’t offer the same rights and liberties to all of them? As a matter of fact, we can’t seek peace across the Atlantic when we can’t stop the war happening across the street.

As a young father of color, I now have the additional responsibility of teaching my son how to prepare for the cops. Much the way I have to advocate for improved curriculum and de-escalation of testing in our public schools, I must advocate for improved relationships and de-escalation of aggression on behalf of the NYPD. A big step towards that is by ending stop-and-frisk.

If you’re in my table listening to this, no longer can you claim naivete. We need you to end it, too.

Jose, who needs another change of venue …

p.s. – In case you need information, my colleague Marvin Bing, Northeast Regional Director of the NAACP and a Harlem native, shared this with me, so I’m hoping you’ll read up, too.

What “Stop and Frisk” Means:  The situation in which a police officer who is suspicious of an individual detains the person and runs his hands lightly over the suspect’s outer garments to determine if the person is carrying a concealed weapon.

One of the most controversial police procedures is the stop and frisk search. This type of limited search occurs when police confront a suspicious person in an effort to prevent a crime from taking place. The police frisk (pat down) the person for weapons and question the person.

A stop is different from an arrest. An arrest is a lengthy process in which the suspect is taken to the police station and booked, whereas a stop involves only a temporary interference with a person’s liberty. If the officer uncovers further evidence during the frisk, the stop may lead to an actual arrest, but if no further evidence is found, the person is released.

Unlike a full search, a frisk is generally limited to a patting down of the outer clothing. If the officer feels what seems to be a weapon, the officer may then reach inside the person’s clothing. If no weapon is felt, the search may not intrude further than the outer clothing.


NAACP President on why we are standing against Stop and Frisk
Over 4 Years, Nearly 52,000 Stops on one block; Brooklyn
Why Stop and Frisk must End- Huffington Post
Keys Facts:
1. In 2011, NYC officers made 685,724 stops as part of the “stop-and-frisk” policy. Of that group, 605,328 people were determined not to have engaged in any unlawful behavior. [NYCLU]

2. Only 5.37% of all stops in a recent five-year period resulted in an arrest. In short, many people stopped did nothing wrong. [NYT, 5/17/12]

3. In 2009, 36% of the time officer failed to list an acceptable “suspected crime.” Reasonable suspicion of a crime is required to make a stop. [NYT,5/17/12]

4. More than half of all stops last year were conducted “because the individual displayed ‘furtive movement’ — which is so vague as to be meaningless.”[NYT, 5/14/12]

5. Of those frisked in 2011, a weapon was found just 1.9% of the time. Frisks are supposed to be conducted “only when an officer reasonably suspects the person has a weapon.” [NYCLU]

6. 85% of those stopped were black or Hispanic even though those groups make up about half of NYC’s population. [NYT, 5/17/12]

7. Young black and Latino men account for 4.7% of NYC’s population but 41.6% of the stops in 2011. [NYCLU]

8. The number of stops involving young black men in 2011 (168,124) exceed the city’s population of young black men (158,406).[NYT, 5/15/12]

9. Even in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods, police stopped more blacks than whites.[NYT, 5/15/12]

10. In 2012, police are on pace to make more than 800,000 stops, more than twice the population of Miami. [NYT, 5/15/12]