Monday, September 9, 2013

Stop defending "stop and frisk"

Conservative whipping boy and almost former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, recently gave an interview to New York Magazine highlighting the greatest accomplishments of his tenure, criticizing those who are running to replace him, criticizing those who criticize him, and making those who think Bloomberg is a liberal or progressive, kind of nuts.  But part of the interview was centered around a controversial police tactic that Bloomberg is highly supportive of, this policy is known as stop and frisk.

The policy known as stop and frisk is where a policeman or police officer confront a suspicious person and can frisk the person for weapons and question the person.  As you'd suspect, blacks and Hispanics are subject to a majority of the stops as they appear to be the most suspicious.  The American Civil Liberties Union of New York (NYCLU) reports that 90 percent of the suspects were either black or Hispanic.  Not surprisingly, black and Hispanic males, aged 14-24, those living the "thug life", account for 4.7% of the city's population but 41.6% of the stops in 2011.

Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin found that the tactic of stop and frisk was not only a policy of indirect racial profiling but also violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York City.  Bloomberg criticized the decision and he had some unlikely allies in criticizing the decision, as FreedomWorks also criticized the decision.  FreedomWorks has been critical of Bloomberg in the past but for some reason they were allied on this issue. FreedomWorks called the decision one of the most poorly written decision they have ever read because I assume they disagree with the conclusion found in the decision.

Officers testified that blacks were stopped because they changed directions, were fidgety, walked in a certain way, grabbed at a pocket, or looked over their shoulder.  Clearly, this is disturbing behavior.  The only explanation for this is that they are criminals.  It's probably due to that type of policing that nearly 90 percent of those stopped were completely innocent.  This means that the suspects were not arrested nor given a ticket.

In the decision, Judge Scheindlin found that police officers were so concerned with finding concealed weapons that they would stop suspects for having bulges in their pockets.  In 99.8% of stops, a gun was not recovered.  In most cases, the suspicious bulge was either a wallet or a cell phone.  I highly doubt it was because the suspects were happy to see the police officers.  In 2011, the New York Police Department conducted nearly 700,000 stops and 780 guns were recovered.  In 2003, there were 604 guns recovered in 160,581 stops.  The stops have dramatically increased while the effectiveness of them have fallen. Stop and frisk is a violation of constitutional rights, a discriminatory practice, and has ceased being effective.  Please stop defending this practice.




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