STOP is a feature length documentary about Floyd v. City of New York, the class-action lawsuit that challenged the New York City Police Department’s practice of stop & frisk, and resulted in the landmark decision finding the practice unconstitutional.
Unlike the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have been stopped over the last decade, I came to the issue of policing in NYC via a newspaper article. In A Few Blocks, 4 Years, 52,000 Police Stops (2009), New York Times reporter Ray Rivera revealed that thousands upon thousands of fellow New Yorkers were being routinely stopped, interrogated, and often roughed up by the police.
It seemed like a throwback to another era. Like stories I had heard from my family about the civil rights movement, or even the rough days of the 1990s, when Mayor Giuliani’s police force aggressively swept through the city.
But this was the shiny safe, new Bloomberg New York. I simply couldn’t understand why the police were making nearly 700,000 stops a year.
I called up Ray Rivera, and he put me in contact with the Center for Constitutional Rights. In 2008, they had initiated a lawsuit challenging what they considered the NYPD’s disproportionate and indiscriminate stops. As I delved deeper into the police policy I discovered that these stops were happening all over the city, and they were increasing, not decreasing, as the city got safer.
The people targeted by the police hated the stops. As a lawyer I was dubious about their legality. As a native New Yorker, I was skeptical about their place in a city as diverse as our own. But a cause is not a film.
Then I met the Ourlichts. Their family history was a revelation. It brought together New York City’s past and present, its many neighborhoods, its struggles with stop and civil rights, its contest over Floyd and its fear of criminality. The Ourlichts held up a mirror to our city and helped us look back at ourselves.
Then I knew this wasn’t merely a cause. It was a film that had to be made.
– Spencer Wolff, Writer & Director