Stop and Frisk; Stop or Continue?

By: Levan Ungiadze

Copy edited by Dominique Croons and Brett Levenstein

Research Edited by Brett Levenstein

Format edited by: Arthur Carlton-Jones


What is Stop and Frisk and why is it important?

During the first presidential debate between Hillary R. Clinton and Donald J. Trump, the New York Billionaire suggested that violence in Chicago is even worse than that of Afghanistan, and called for stop and frisk, which is a policing tactic that has been widely condemned as racial profiling. Stop and frisk gives police the power to detain and search people if there are specific reasons for suspicion. Critics of this practice claim that there is often no specific evidence and that it disproportionately affects minorities.[1] It is extremely important to consider that the U.S. District Court judge ruled this practice unconstitutional. Still, the topic has been brought back up by the presidential candidate Trump, and hence the conversation has once again opened. Even though stop and frisk was ruled to be unconstitutional, should the US still practice it?

Racial profiling and its negative consequences?

In the federal class action lawsuit Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al, “Floyd focuses not only on the lack of any reasonable suspicion to make these stops in violation of the Fourth Amendment, but also on the obvious racial disparities in who is stopped”.[2] (gramma-Dominique) Since 2002, New York residents have been subjected to over 5 million cases of stop and frisk, and “Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports”.[3] Out of these 5 million stops, approximately 85 percent were either Black or Latino, even though these two groups together only make up 52 percent of the city’s population. For many, such obvious racial profiling “constitutes a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment”.[4] For example, in 2006, New Yorkers were stopped by the police a total of 506, 491 times. Out of these, 90 percent were totally innocent, 53 percent were Black and 29 percent were Latino, while white people only made up 11 percent of the stops.[5]

Such blatant racial profiling can possibly stem distrust of the police force in the Black and Latino communities and will turn a structure that is supposed be a symbol of help and hope into something feared. In case of emergencies, many might not seek for help of the police because of mistrust or some might decide to run from them even when innocent due to the fear of their words not having enough weight.

Violent crime decline and its possible reasons?

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Ray Kelly claimed that the streets of New York are much safer now and that is true, violent crimes fell 29 percent in New York City from 2001 to 2010, but no research has tied this decline to the stop and frisk regime. In those years “large cities experienced larger violent crime declines without relying on stop and frisk abuses: 59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas, and 37 percent in Baltimore”.[6] Hence, the stop and frisk practices in New York did not decrease crime rates and the reason for the 29 percent drop needs to be found in other variables such as growth in income, lower unemployment rates and decreased alcohol consumption.

Bottom Line

As someone who has experienced this practice firsthand, I can certainly talk about the negative sides related to stop and frisk. I was once stopped without any real reason while walking back home from a friend’s apartment. Since I had already heard from a couple of my friends just how roughly they were treated, I did not question anything the police told me, and I simply complied. They patted me around, laughed, emptied my backpack onto the ground, and once done searching, did not pick anything up. The whole experience was morally demeaning as I was put in a situation where I was being treated unjustly, but couldn’t do anything about it. I knew how any hint of struggling would be used completely against me. In conclusion, not only is stop and frisk unconstitutional, inefficient, morally wrong and promoting racial profiling, it also leaves the victim with a distrust of the police force and divides communities. Bringing such a hurtful regime back would be a mistake.

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