No More Stop-and-Frisk

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary One of New York City Police’s most controversial methods of law enforcement is what is called “stop-and-frisk.” The point of this act is to stop anyone, find out if they have a concealed firearm, and then arrest them if they do. The New York City Police have claimed that this has helped drive down crime and also to have stopped gang activity. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), however, has found a far nastier aspect to this method. First, it is clearly against the U.S. Constitution. It violates the Fourth Amendment of search and seizure. As with everything else, police must have a warrant and the consent of those being searched if there is no warrant. Second, this method of law enforcement does not allow a person any right to appeal if they are stopped by police.

This alone should have been enough for the NYCLU to say this is wrong. But there is more to the story. When asked for data on the results of the stop-and-frisk law enforcement method, the police refused to give out this information. So the NYCLU went to a supreme state court judge who granted access to this information (although the court also ruled that this data could not be released to the public). What the NYCLU found was damning—90 percent of those stop-and-frisked were not carrying any weapon and most certainly were not arrested. More than 87 percent of those stop-and-frisked were either African American or Latino men. This means that African American and Latino men were definitely being profiled above everyone else. More than anything else, this law enforcement method was definitely not really helping to contribute to the safety and protection of the people of New York City.

Hence, the New York City Council is considering three bills that would change the nature of stop-and-frisk. First, police would have to have probable cause of who might be carrying a weapon—not what race or ethnic group they may be coming from. Police will have to have a search warrant for stop-and-frisking a person, or obtaining a person’s consent if there is no search warrant. Finally, police will have to provide their names, badge numbers and precincts so that those searched can file a complaint against any possible unwarranted searches. While I applaud these bills to amend stop-and-frisk, I say we should probably stop the law enforcement method of stop-and-frisk altogether. The U.S. Constitution was created for a reason, and other police departments around the country have been able to operate well within the confines of this law for two centuries. Fine, there are those who claim we can stop crime altogether if we just let police do whatever it takes to stop crime. But this is still a nation where the rule of law must protect suspects as well as the innocent.

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