Stop and Frisk has been in the news constantly since Donald Trump voiced that he would like to effectively invoke it on a national level as a crime preventing measure.
First of all, the President, excepting in cases of dire emergency, such as having to invoke Martial Law, does not have the ability on a national level to dictate state and local law enforcement initiatives. Yet, Stop And Frisk has arisen as a topic of debate and I think it is important to discuss its effectiveness.
Crime is an important issue to everyone regardless of the racial, cultural or socio-economic demographic. It is quite a misnomer that those that reside in lower income/higher crime areas are somehow passive or apathetic about crime in their neighborhoods. Nothing could be further from the truth, for people in which the majority are hard working strivers of the American Dream.
The fundamental debate with Stop and Frisk is whether its effectiveness as a crime prevention measure outweighs the infringement of civil liberties that come as a consequence. Stop and Frisk as posed, would have law enforcement randomly stopping citizens and patting them down for weapons or illegal contraband without any justification or probable cause. Part of the rationale is that it provides both a deterrent as well as tangible results by removing guns and weapons off the street.
In theory, other than criminals, who does not want illegal guns and drugs off the streets? Though that question is rhetorical, a supplemental question is at what price to our civil liberties do we want the police to implement law enforcement measures.
Now I know that many of you will simply argue that the plague of illegal guns and drugs is so detrimental and pervasive that no measure is too extreme to eradicate their existence and reduce crime. I answer simply to anyone capable of making such a point, “you would think very differently if you were one of the targeted demographic that negate any actual randomness to Stop and Frisk.” I also argue that in most cases Stop and Frisk, without clear probable cause is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution which stipulates that “the right of the people to be secure in their PERSONS (Italics added), houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation,…”
I used to be one of those randomly chosen to be stop and frisked. It happened to me well over a dozen times for no other reason than I was a Person Of Color (POC) who resided in and walked in several of New York City’s high crime areas. The late eighties and early nineties saw cities across the country devastated by the crack epidemic. When Rudy Giuliani became mayor in 1993 (until the end of 2001) he had the police initiate stop and frisk. Any male who lived in the hood/high crime/Black and Latino neighborhoods can tell you that New York City was a virtual police state in which they knew with almost certainty that they were going to be detained for no other reason than they were a male POC. It got so bad guys I knew refused to wear white or light colored clothing because the outfits were ruined once they were forced onto the dirty city sidewalks.
I make light, but it was no laughing matter. I was stopped while I was an undergrad at Columbia University when I was home or seeing other family and friends in neighborhoods that I had always been part of and frequented. I was stopped the whole time while I was in law school. There was never any probable cause basis for my being stopped other than the color of my skin. The numerous times I was stopped and frisked did not result in crime prevention. They did not get any illegal guns or drugs off the street, but it did have an effect.
The harassment by NYPD really made me hate the police, and I was clearly not alone in such sentiment. It took me many many years to lose that sentiment and even regain respect. Stop and Frisk sets up an adversarial relationship between the police and the community which vastly undermines the minimal success rate that the stops achieve.
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) analyzed the NYPD’s own data on over 5 million reported stops and interrogations from 2002- thru the first quarter of 2016 and found that nearly 87% of the New Yorkers stopped and frisked were either Black and Latino and of all those Stopped and Frisked, nearly 90% were found to be totally innocent. Additionally when age was reported, it showed that nearly 50% of those stopped were between the ages of 14-24. So while only 10% of those over 5 million stops resulted in any type of arrest or even issuance of summons, the majority of those (90%) in that 10% were hit with minor offenses such as marijuana possession and I argue that the numbers and even percentages of Blacks and Hispanics targeted during the Giuliani years were even higher.
Stop and Frisk is inherently flawed as an effective police method. Those that usually argue the ends justify the means are normally the staunchest proponents of the US Constitution (i.e. 2nd Amendment) but somehow conveniently forget about the protections of the 4th Amendment when it does not remotely affect them or their sons. Remember that is approximately 4,500,000 stops of completely innocent people versus 500,000 and 90% of the half million are for non-violent offenses.
I have a (presently upcoming) article detailing that I believe initiating “Community Policing” as well as overall and uniform gun control across the country as a much more effective means of patrolling and policing than the unconstitutional and ineffective Stop and Frisk. The divisiveness between law enforcement and communities comprising mostly POC is at an extreme high. Do you think further infringement of the rights and civil liberties on a group that is presently screaming and protesting about the oppression and infringement of their rights and civil liberties is a good idea?
I think not!
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