Serrano Questions AG Holder on “Stop and Frisk” and Civil Rights

Feb 28, 2012 Issues: Civil Rights, The Bronx

Washington, DC – Congressman José E. Serrano today questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about the growing concern of civil rights activists over the “stop and frisk” policies of the New York City Police Department, which are statistically shown to disproportionately target individuals of color who are overwhelmingly innocent. Serrano pressed AG Holder on whether the civil rights division of the Justice Department was planning to or already investigating the policy and its effects. Holder responded that they are aware of the issue but do not have an open investigation.

“I raised the ‘stop and frisk’ issue with Attorney General Holder because there is a growing sense in our community that the policy is discriminatory in practice, and is an infringement on constitutional rights,” said Serrano. “Mr. Holder told me that the Department of Justice, and particularly its Civil Rights Division, are aware of the problem, but do not have an open investigation. I believe that the pattern has been clearly shown to infringe in a material way the civil rights of African-Americans and Latinos in New York City, and as a result should be banned.”

“I have been hearing from constituents and community leaders that this policy is causing a crisis within our City. It is time for the Mayor and the Police Commissioner to put this policy on hold and study how best to overhaul procedures so that we can ensure that innocent people are not being unfairly targeted. Ours is a city of tolerance and respect, and when one group is constantly singled out for unwanted searches by the police department, we have to change course. If the City and Police Department are unwilling or unable to undertake these needed changes to policy on their own, it is time for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to step in and press the issue.

“I know that AG Holder shares my commitment to civil rights. I hope that through the questions that I asked him today, we will get the Department of Justice to begin to scrutinize this unfortunate policy and examine how they can help. The kids walking down the street doing nothing wrong deserve the constitutional protections that they are guaranteed, and at a certain point, only federal officials can help.”