Stop and frisk essay introduction
"In that moment you are so scared," that is how Kasim Walters, a 17 years old New Yorker described his feelings when he was stopped by the police in his neighborhood in Brooklyn (Weir). The controversial stop and frisk policy came into effect in New York following the Terry v. Ohio case in 1968 in which the Supreme Court of the US made a significant ruling that a police officer doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment when he stops and frisks someone suspected on reasonable grounds of having committed a crime, about to commit a crime or is committing a crime. Over the last decade this law has come under a lot of heat due to the arbitrary practice of targeting the minorities for such searches. On 17th June 2012, thousands of Harlem residents marched peacefully and steadily down the Manhattan fifth avenue in front of Michael Bloomberg’s house to protest against the stop-and-frisk policy. The march, arguably the biggest public demonstration against the policy opened the floodgates for many lawsuits awaiting a verdict in the court. Though a few New York residents do not see the need to have the law abolished, many argue that one cannot fathom the underside of the policy until they have firsthand experience of the stop and frisking harassment. While according to some people this law is a crime fighting mechanism designed to save lives by bringing down the crime rate effectively, others opposed to the policy believe that it encourages racial profiling by targeting minorities, unconstitutionally infringes on the freedom to movement and privacy and is ineffective in bringing down the crime rates.
The stop and frisk policy upholds racial profiling which is a kind of racism committed by the law enforcement officers. According to NY Police Commissioner Raymond
Kelly, however, the practice of stop and frisk policy is not targeted at minorities and that rather this practice is saving the lives of minorities because as per the data presented by the New York Police Department over 90% victims of homicides and gun violence were minorities. The NYPD data also shows that most of the perpetrators of violent crimes are also minorities, but just because a small number of minority groups are committing the majority acts of violence does not justify that hundred others who are innocent should suffer from the torment of stop and frisk policy. Andrew Karmen who is a criminal justice professor at John Jay College voiced his opinion against the policy saying, "A small number of black and Hispanic youth are committing the majority of the crime
But it doesn't justify hundreds of thousands of stops of innocent people" (Huffington Post). In 2011, over 600,000 people were stopped and frisked in New York City with about 90% of those belonging to minority section of blacks and Latinos. Only 1.8% of stop and frisk searches on the minority groups resulted in seizures of weapons. These statistics are proof enough how the policy is portraying the image of some racial groups as criminally inclined and promoting racism that is threatening for the peaceful coexistence of all the New Yorkers.
This policy is utterly unconstitutional and impinging on one's civil right of freedom to movement and freedom to privacy. The proponents of stop and frisk policy think that this policy is an important crime fighting tool that ensures the safety of people by getting hold of the suspicious anti-social elements who may be plotting to commit a grievous crime. As part of this stop and frisk policy, New York Police Department has the right to stop and frisk people roaming inside and around private apartment buildings and the suspects could be apprehended if they are unable to give any just explanation for their presence. This is called Clean Halls program. But the cops are using this program to harass people randomly. Based on appearance and clothing, they are suspecting people of criminality. They are intruding on people's private life and instilling fear in them unjustly. Jacqueline Yates, a New Yorker who has filed a case against the policy stated that this policy has started affecting her personal life and has turned her apartment into a prison with all the guests who visit her in her apartment being stopped and frisked and her sons routinely being searched twice or thrice a week. Shira Scheindlin, U.S. District Court Judge in criticism of NYPD's sweeping implementation of stop and frisk policy stated that the department's "cavalier attitude displays a deeply troubling attitude towards fundamental constitutional rights” (McKay). Another New Yorker Jaenean Ligon who is a plaintiff in a case against the program shared her story how 17 years old son who went out to buy ketchup was stopped by the police outside the building and Ligon was told to come downstairs for making identification of her son. The identification request sent her into a panic as she feared that her son might have got killed or seriously injured (Will, Gearty, and Brown).
It is evident from such cases how stop and frisk policy is intruding on someone's freedom of movement that a guy because of his race and color had to go through the ignominy of intrusive search while he was on his way to home. There are several lawsuits going on against the policy, the most notable being the case of Floyd vs. City of New York. In this case, where most stakeholders and supporters were people from the human rights groups, the law of stop-and-check was challenged for being too much abusive to the rights and liberties of the citizenry (The Editorial Board). According to the case’ plaintiff lawyers, the policy abused the citizens’ rights to refuse unreasonable searches and seizures. What makes the seizures and searches unreasonable are such factors as vague descriptions of the word ‘reasonable’ by the stop-and-frisk policy. Criticizing the stop and frisk policy strongly, judge Shira Scheindlin concludes “While it may be difficult to say when precisely to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters such as a line exists, and the NYPD has systematically crossed it" (McKay).
The stop and frisk policy is not only unethical, it is ineffective. Proponents of the stop and frisk policy argue that this program has helped in the reduction of crime rate in NYC by taking guns off the street, but there is no astounding evidence to prove that the crime rate in NYC has reduced due to the implementation of this program. Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director, points out that only one gun was recovered out of every 254 stops in 2003 and in 2012 only 96 guns were seized with an additional 372,060 stops. Rather this program has led to frequent arrests for the possession of marijuana which is very unfair because in NY marijuana possession is decriminalized and as Lieberman said “There is nobody – either a sociologist or a criminologist – there is nobody in their right mind that can tell me that possession of marijuana is associated with a tendency to violence” (CBS New York).
The stop and frisk policy has become a topic of heated argument with a few people believing that the policy is a crime fighting tool that is saving lives by reducing crimes while others opposed to the policy view it as an upholder of racial profiling, unconstitutional and ineffective. Keeping in view that the law has been a cause of major harassments to people, a better alternative like hot spot policing should be put into effect. Hot spot policing refers to the strategy which puts police personnel on dark alleys, street corners and other places in which criminal activities are prevalent. This policy though does not involve the mandatory stop and frisk searches has been known to contribute to the reduction of crime in New York. Since anti-social elements are more likely to be found in areas which are crime prone, it is better for the police to do more of hot spot policing and less of stop and frisk so that police can nab few dangerous criminals who are behind all crimes leaving the law abiding citizens alone. A 90 day long study conducted by the Sacramento Police Department has shown that hot spot policing reduces crime (Pettit). Given the lawsuits, harassment complaints against the unconstitutional program of stop and frisking it is about time that NYPD or New York City Mayor Bloomberg comes up with some viable alternative options like hot spot policing to replace the existing malpractice.
NYPD Report Says 96 Percent Of Shooting Victims Are Black or Latino, Huffington Post, New York. 9th June. 2012. Web. 14th June 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/06/nypd-report-details-crime_n_1862771.html>
Wills, Kerry. Gearty, Robert & Brown, Stephen Rex. NYPD's controversial 'Stop and Frisk policy ruled unconstitutional, 8 Jan 2013. Web. 14 June 2013 <http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nypd-controversial-stop-frisk-policy-ruled-unconstitutional-article-1.1235578>
Stop-and-Frisk on Trial, The Editorial Board, 21 May 2013. Web. 14 June 2013 <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/opinion/stop-and-frisk-on-trial.html?_r=0>
McKay, Tom. NYC 'Stop and Frisk' Policy Ruled Unconstitutional: Conservatives Immediately Start Whining, 14 June 2013 <http://www.policymic.com/articles/22375/nyc-stop-and-frisk-policy-ruled-unconstitutional-conservatives-immediately-start-whining>
NYCLU: Stop-And-Frisk Ineffective At Taking Guns Off Streets, CBS New York. 22 May 2013. Web. 14 June 2013 <http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/05/22/nyclu-stop-and-frisk-ineffective-at-taking-guns-off-streets/>
Margot Adler. Court Case Winds Down In New York's Stop-And-Frisk Challenge. May 2013. Web. 14 June 2013 < http://www.npr.org/2013/05/20/185458137/court-case-winds-down-in-new-yorks-stop-and-frisk-challenge>
Weir, Bill. NYPD's Controversial Stop-and-Frisk Policy: Racial Profiling or 'Proactive Policing'? 1 May 2013. Web. 14 June 2013 <http://abcnews.go.com/US/nypds-controversial-stop-frisk-policy-racial-profiling-proactive/story?id=19084229#.UbvfBr3D_IU>
Pettit, Andrew. “Hot Spot” Policing Reduces Crime, 4 Oct 2011. Web. 15 June 2013. <http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/58173/Hot_Spot_Policing_Reduces_Crime'>