The Daily Gamecock

‘Stop and frisk’ an unfair policy

NYPD practice wasteful, harms minorities

The New York City Police Department currently has a policy allowing its officers to “stop, question and frisk” anyone they deem suspicious without a warrant. The police department vigorously defends the practice, claiming it is vital to ensuring safety, preventing crime and getting guns off the streets. However, those outside of the department are quick to point out that guns are rarely seized by police during these stops and that most of the arrests are actually for nonviolent, small-scale drug possession offenses.

Currently, a class-action lawsuit is challenging the program, Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit all have different stories about their personal encounters with the program. However, they all point to a common theme: The vast majority of those who are stopped and frisked by the department are black or Latino, roughly 90 percent in 2012. This is a staggering number and suggests the department isn’t really deciding who to stop based on how suspicious they appear but rather the color of their skin.

Even more disconcerting than last year’s statistics is the fact that 2012 was not the first year the police have been conducting such stops. In fact, the NYPD has been conducting “stop and frisks” in large numbers since 2001. During that time period, the New York Civil Liberties Union estimates the NYPD has stopped roughly 5 million people, all of them in public and all of them without a warrant.

The NYCLU is far from the only group advocating for an end to the program. Professor Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University was among those who testified against the program. Fagan studied the data from 4 million stops and concluded they were unconstitutional for various reasons. He found that blacks are 31 percent more likely to be arrested for the same offense as whites, and the police are 14 percent more likely to use force against blacks than whites.
In addition to the disparities in treatment among races, the department only weeks ago began requiring officers to give a specific reason as to why they stopped a particular person. However, the change doesn’t go far enough. Officers now will likely claim they smell marijuana on a person, as it’s a difficult claim to disprove, then use that as grounds to question them, make them empty their pockets and search their belongings.

Based on this information, it’s clear the NYPD’s stop and frisk program is an invasion of privacy, unfairly hurts minorities and is a waste of valuable city resources. The NYPD should develop other ways of ensuring safety, ways that respect individuals rights and privacy, don’t unfairly target minorities and are focused on catching violent criminals.


Trending Now

Send a Tip Get Our Email Editions