The stop and frisk procedure has been operating in The United States for over a decade now, but recently has been brought to the forefront of media attention. While it is possible to understand some of the arguments against stop and frisk, it seems that the benefits far outweigh the downsides. If police are going to crack down on crime and terrorism, measures need to be taken; furthermore, stop and frisk is non-intrusive and quick, compared to many other crime prevention methods.
A highly debated police action is the stop and frisk search. According to The Legal Dictionary: “This type of limited search occurs when police confront a suspicious person in an effort to prevent a crime from taking place. The police frisk (pat down) the person for weapons and question the person.”
Recently, the stop and frisk procedure has caused great controversy in the States, as accusations have been made that police officials only target people of certain races. Ryan Devereaux from The Guardian reports that a milestone lawsuit has accused the New York police department of carrying out an extensive and premeditated pattern of unlawful stops that are excessively aimed at minorities (Devereaux). The police department has dismissed allegations that race is any part of his officers’ agendas: "The quota allegations are a sideshow," city attorney Heidi Grossman said in opening statements Monday. "Crime drives where police officers go Not race" (Devereaux).
The department has stopped and frisked around 5 million individuals throughout the past ten years. The department statistics reveals that the overwhelming majority of people approached are African American or Latino, most of which are young men. Over the last few years only one in ten people have then been summoned or arrested following the frisk (Devereaux).
While the data supports the accusation that the police are targeting people based on their race, Grossman’s point is valid: that police are more prevalent in areas which crime is higher. It would be interesting to view data of racial proportions which reside and work in the same areas. In other words, if the police are operating in an area of the city which is largely Latino, the chances are that most people they stop and frisk with be Latino.
More generally, some people believe the stop and frisk regime is an infringement of their human rights. People have reported feeling embarrassed and belittled as a result of being approached and patted down in the street by police. While this is arguably understandable, it is important that individual’s objecting to the procedure remember the reasons for the police carrying it out.
The arguments against stop and frisk are persuasive. However, it seems that the positive sides of the procedure outweigh the negatives. With weapon-related crime on the increase in some states, and with the ever-present threat of terrorism, the police departments are trying to crack down in an attempt at preventing crimes before they happen. A pat down is non-intrusive, and far less inconvenient and distressing for an innocent person than an arrest or detainment. Perhaps the issue lies with the police officers who are carrying out the procedure. It is possible that some officers make the individuals they approach feel more at ease than others. If officers receive sufficient training in stop and frisk and in general communication, they should be able to go about their job without embarrassing innocent people.
The Free Legal Dictionary. “Stop and Frisk.” 2013. Web. 19 April 2013.
“Devereaux, R. NYPD officers testify stop-and-frisk policy driven by quota system and race.” The Guardian. March 2013. Web. 19 April 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/22/nypd-stop-frisk-quota-race