Stop and Frisk Is Not Only Racist — It Doesn't Work


Although the New York City Police Department and Mayor Bloomberg have long maintained the (unproven) effectiveness of "Stop and Frisk," the practice has (finally) been ruled unconstitutional by Judge Shira Scheindlin. Turns out arbitrarily stopping and searching any citizen without probable cause violates the 4th and 14th Amendments protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures. Who would have thunk!

Even after Bloomberg's infamous crazy white panic moment, where he blurted out: "I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little," he continues to insist that Stop & Frisk has helped reduce crime. He's planning on appealing the law even though Judge Shira Scheindlin said "the city's highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner."

Stop and Frisk basically codifies racial profiling into law. In 2011, a shocking 86% of people targeted by these searches are Black or Hispanic and only 9% were white. It's curious, especially if we consider that Blacks and Hispanic only respectively make up 23% and 29% of New York's population. As Theresa Welch at US News notes Whites are much less likely to receive any kind of police aggression although they are more likely to "be found in possession of weapons or other contraband."

On top of being, as the judge put it "racially discriminatory", Stop & Frisk isn't helping us keep the streets of New York safer. Despite Bloomberg declaring that Stop and Frisk has helped reduce the crime rate in New York, it's not actually a verifiable claim. Why? Because the rate of Stop & Frisk actually went down (partly because of mounting lawsuits) in the past few years. So how could a practice that police are doing less and less of be mainly responsible for reducing crime?

If we look at the numbers, Stop and Frisk is actually rarely effective. In 2011, 685,000 stop-and-frisk stops were performed but only 770 guns were seized. As Jamil Smith at MSNBC notes, the practice has confiscated only one gun per 1000 attempts. "It's one thing to suspect for no reason; another to suspect for no reason, and produce no results. It doubles the inanity," Smith explains.

New York mayoral candidate and front-runner Christine Quinn is satisfied with the ruling. "Today’s court ruling affirms what we have known for some time, too many young men of color are being stopped in the streets of New York in an unconstitutional manner and that must stop,” she expressed in a statement. 

Reverend Al Sharpton, the president of National Action Network is overjoyed. "The New York judge’s decision on stop-and-frisk is a huge victory for those of us that have marched and fought against it for years saying it is a violation of our constitutional and civil rights," he said.

As Judge Shira Scheindlin put it,"No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life." Fear should not be used to fight crime. Especially if it doesn't work.

How do you feel about today's decision? Let me know on Twitter and Facebook.

For a comprehensive analysis of Stop and Frisk and its implications, take a look at Jamil Smith's latest post on MSNBC.