Stop and Frisk…a Very Slippery Slope…

Patch of New York City Police Department

Patch of New York City Police Department (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wikipedia describes New York City’s STOP & FRISK  program thusly…“The New York City stop-question-and-frisk program is a practice of the New York City Police Department by which police officers stop and question tens of thousands of pedestrians annually, and frisk them for weapons and other contraband. The rules for stop, question and frisk are found in New York State Criminal Procedure Law section 140.50, and are based on the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Terry v. Ohio[1][2] About 684,000 people were stopped in 2011.[1][3][4] The vast majority of these people were African-American or Latino.[1][3][4] Some judges have found that these stops are not based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.[5]”

Though the program has been immensely successful in limiting and in mnay cases stopping crimes altogether, and the facts back this up,  it has come under intense scrutiny and loud criticism.  It seems to be as an overt intrusion and obfuscation of the civil rights of the citizens of the City. The issues are many and they are quite complex.  Wikipedia continues, “Some NYPD officers have objected publicly to the department’s use of stop-question-and-frisk paperwork as a performance metric, which they claim encourages officers to overuse the practice and creates public hostility. Activists have described this as a form of quota, a characterization that department representatives have denied .[7][8]In about ninety percent of cases, no evidence of wrongdoing is found and the stopped person is let go.[9]

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19 Responses to Stop and Frisk…a Very Slippery Slope…

  1. Joanne F says:

    A couple of faulty premises above, Joe, and one of the reasons why we should never rely on Wikipedia for information — the stuff posted there is not subject to verification. The truth is the facts do NOT back up a decrease in crime, and Judge Scheindlin’s 195-page opinion made that clear. It actually had next to NO results for crime reduction, and that’s one of the main reasons why the policy is unconstitutional. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars “unreasonable searches and seizures” by the government, and in order for searches and seizures to be lawful, there must be a “reasonable suspicion” that criminal activity has taken place. The Stop and Frisk Policy does not meet the test of reasonable suspicion, because being black or hispanic is not criminal. There was no other reason to stop those victims. There is no rational relation between stopping minorities nearly 1,000,000 times over the years it’s been in effect and getting maybe 10% results (meaning, 10% of the cases resulted in a gun being confiscated or a crime charged). This policy is codified discrimination, plain and simple — and anathema to everything America stands for. All of Michael Bloomberg’s and Ray Kelley’s bellyaching about how this will be the end of crime-fighting as we know it is the worst form of bluster — and more appalling considering these tactics are similar to what Hitler’s Nazis did to the Jews in Europe. Bloomberg — being a Jew — ought to know better. Instead, he has become that which his people loathe. Disgusting. As a constitutional lawyer, I feel quite confident that if the puffing Bloomberg and Kelley decide to appeal, as they say they will, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold Judge Scheindlin and hand them their butts. Which they deserve. We have lost enough freedoms since 9/11 — most when people either weren’t paying attention, didn’t understand, or were too quick to give them away out of fear — this crap has got to stop. We are not Nazi Germany.

    • joeref says:

      the problem is complex. I have scoured the internet looking for statistics and facts, not opinions, about the effect on crime that STOP & FRISK has had not only in NYC but across the country. The results are mixed with both proponents and opponents citing facts and figures that many experts in the field say are impossible to prove.Turns out crime rates in general have gone down across the country, with or without STOP & FRISK. What does this mean? I’m not sure I know. My gut tells me that though civil rights are being violated, there has to be some truth in the fact that many crimes were stopped by STOP & FRISK, the same way heightened intelligence carried out by the NSA has foiled many terrorist plots. It’s a fine line between security and BIG BROTHER and in this case minority populations feel as though they are being targeted and their is some truth to that as well seeing how the majority of the crimes are committed in neighborhoods they inhabit. This is a loaded issue and I will continue to study it. On the one hand there is something to be said for safety, but as Benjamin Franklin noted, “Those that would sacrifice freedom for security, deserve neither freedom nor security”. The Constitution is challenged, re-examined and re-evaluated on a nearly daily basis in this century. The principals still hold true but the application of those ideals is most certainly a very slippery slope.

      • Joanne F says:

        Judge Scheindlin specifically found — after hearing all the evidence — that Stop and Frisk did NOT cause a reduction in crime. All it did was target minorities, which is unconstitutional. I think reading her opinion will help everybody understand this better. However, at 195 pages (and believe me, she wrote an opinion she wanted to be upheld on appeal), it is likely that only law geeks like me will read it. The Slippery Slope I have seen since 9/11 is the loss of our freedoms with very little in return, and it troubles me deeply.

  2. Bill Deegan says:

    Indeed a very controversial question here. Both sides make excellent points. The only comment I would add is in response to the Franklin quote of over 200 years ago. Then you knew who your enemy was, in today’s world our enemies are not marching down the street wearing red coats. Our enemy could be the “cute” kid from Boston who blew up scores of people. The challenge of protecting us ad our freedoms have never been more difficult.

    • Joanne F says:

      Bill, I respectfully ask: What does our attempt to root out (mostly foreign) enemies have to do with Stop and Frisk? The point is, there is no relation. And that is why we in the ACLU are very concerned about the power grab made by the “powers that be” after 9/11. We all want to be safe and one step ahead of our enemies, but harassing blacks and hispanics isn’t solving that problem. I expect our law enforcement agencies to do their jobs in an EFFECTIVE manner, targeting those who really are our enemies and within the confines of the U.S. Constitution. It CAN be done legally, and don’t let anybody fool you otherwise.

      • joeref says:

        Stop & Frisk is a different issue and set of circumstances than dealing with foreign enemies but it is true that a bit of the same mentality exists in both arenas. Joanne you say that no proof exists that Stop & Frisk has lowered crime rates. My research shows me that the jury is still out on that point. There is some evidence that potentially lethal situations were avoided but very difficult to prove beyond a doubt whether or not the program actually lowered crime rates overall in certain neighborhoods by certain ethnic groups. Though I do think if 5000 illegal guns were confiscated in high crime areas, I have to think just that fact contributed to lower crime rates, at the very least in those areas.

        Sent from my Eye Phone

      • Joanne F says:

        Joe, the jury has actually spoken, and that’s what I was trying to relay in my earlier comments. Judge Scheindlin WAS the jury for Stop and Frisk, conducting a bench trial or ruling on summary judgment, either of which put her in charge of the facts and law. I trust a federal judge to review the evidence and rule on it far more than any outside source with an agenda. And that’s why I continue to contend that there is no proof that S&F reduces crime. She reviewed several hundred thousand cases of S&F and saw that those stops did NOT involve crime in 95% or so of those incidents, they merely constituted harassment of those minorities.

  3. Kenn Paresi says:

    When the crime rates start to sore in minority hoods, they’ll start screaming,”Why isn’t anybody doing anything?” Stop and Frisk was more like Stop and Question…a small % of those stopped were actually frisked, according to what I just read! When you have over 90% of the violent crimes committed in minority areas, would you rather cops on the beat look or run the other way or do their jobs and get guns off the streets! How do they do that if the criminals know they can’t be stopped even if they have a gun on them…it’s a crazy arguement! Judge Scheindlin has had her liberal judgements over turned before and this should be another one! I have friends on the force that are livid over this ruling and I’m on their side on this fight!

  4. Kenn Paresi says:

    And that would be soar!!! LOL

  5. Joanne F says:

    Only cops who have no imagination or talent or education on how to fight REAL crime, and instead resort to harrassing minorities, are upset about this ruling. Think about what a waste of money this is: We should be directing our limited resources to REAL crime control, not running around like fools who aren’t even focusing on the problem. Sorry, Kenn, nothing you’ve said is even remotely persuasive to me. There are teenagers who have been stopped and frisked a dozen or more times before they turned 18! And there haven’t been any crimes discovered (only about 5% of the cases)! WTF is that??? How would you like that to happen to your kid? And what do you think this teaches the victims? To hate the police. Candidly, I’ve come to hate the police for their Nazi tactics. This is AMERICA, not Nazi Germany! Don’t be so quick to give up your rights — you’ll never get them back.

  6. Joanne F says:

    PS Your comments about Judge Scheindlin are a cheap shot. As a lawyer who practices in federal court, I really take offense to them. These are some of the best judges in America, and they know what their job is. You and the cops sound like a bunch of sore losers.

  7. joeref says:

    I’ve been accused of being too liberal sometimes but I think I have to move a bit to the right on this issue. It’s not left, right or center….it’s common sense and what makes sense. Everything I’ve researched says that over 90% of the cerime in NYC is in minority neighborhoods…people of color harming people of color. Kenn makes an excellent point. By making small concessions in civil rights we are keeping the people in these neighborhoods SAFE. The judge in the case may have been 110% on the money in her interpretation of the constitutional guidelines BUT when it comes down to keeping people safe we need to take a broader view.I also agree with Kenn that when the crime rates soar the people will wonder why no one is doing anything about it. You simply can’t tell me that when 7300 illegal guns were confiscated as a result of STOP & FRISK that the crime rate and those committing crimes wasn’t impacted in a positive way, Now I do agree we need some reasonable oversight to prevent wholesale civil rights violations but Joanne… I don’t think the program was the complete failure you’re making it out to be.

  8. Kenn Paresi says:

    Joanne…what planet are you from? I guess having never walked the beat it’s easy for someone like you to suggest that “Only cops who have no imagination or talent or education on how to fight REAL crime, and instead resort to harrassing minorities, are upset about this ruling. ” REALLY? Here’s the reality of this liberal judge’s ruling! It put’s not only our cops in danger, but the city’s citizen’s as well!

  9. Kenn Paresi says:

    And one more thing Joanne…please define just what it is that you consider REAL CRIME…I guess the 1000’s of shootings are not considered a real crime by you? Is armed robbery? If Rev Jackson can make the statement that when he’s walking the street,late at night and hears footsteps, when he turns around to look he hopes he sees a white person! Is that a racist comment or just reality?

  10. Kenn Paresi says:

    His exact words were these, “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” I don’t know about you, but when I turn around and see a cop, I’m relieved…BECAUSE I’m don’t have a gun in my hoodie!
    And I’m really curious as to where you got the idea that I wanted to get into a debate with YOU about anything! I don’t particularly care much for lawyers in the first place as your inane comments confirm my conviction! REAL CRIME? What a JOKE!

  11. Joanne F says:

    Kenn, if you’re quote the NYPost — an avowed right-wing propaganda paper — then I don’t think I’ll be able to get through to you. I also don’t appreciate your ad hominem, nor your childish remark about not caring much about lawyers in the first place. You just proved your discriminate (you seem to dislike all lawyers, irrespective of how nice and competent some of us are), so it tells me you are unable to get the issues in stop and frisk.

    Joe, your blog is titled “Slippery Slope”, and that’s just what is happening with our civil rights. Today, blacks and Hispanics, tomorrow, Asians, the next day, whites who don’t hold the “proper” opinions on how our gov’t should function, and before you know it, we’re in a fascist state. We’ve already become subject to unnecessary surveillance of our communications.

    Guys, I’m attaching a link to Judge Scheindlin’s opinion. Why don’t you read it and see what she found BASED ON EVIDENCE, not hyperbole, not propaganda, not on political persuasion. Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.

    I dare you to read it.

  12. joeref says:

    OK kids…let’s tone it down a bit. I’ve known quite a few lawyers in my day having been in my own businesses for over 40 years. Only three I ever liked…and Joanne is one of them! It is a slippery slope because you can slide either way. Like I said earlier I tend to slide a bit right on this one but I do the potential for civil rights abuses. I will read the Judge Scheindlin’s opinion to see if it sheds more light on the subject. Am I in favor of police randomly frisking minorities in NYC, with no oversight or reasonable plan? No I am not. Am in favor of protecting innocent bystanders in minority neighborhoods? Yes I am. To be continued…

  13. Joanne F says:


    This afternoon I spent a little time reading Judge Scheindlin’s opinion. The first 10 pages or so are perhaps the most critical. After that it gets very legal.

    What I read was even more shocking than I thought: Of 4 million — yes, 4,000,000 — stops and frisks, about 90% were to minorities, even though those minorities constitute about 60% of the NYC population; 1% resulted in finding a weapon from a black, and less than 5% resulted in any type of charges. Ironically, the highest percentage of weapons confiscated were from whites, even though they were stopped much less frequently than the percentage of the population they constitute.

    I highly recommend you read at least the first 10-15 pages of the opinion. It’s quite enlightening..

  14. joeref says:

    I’ll read it and then I’ll tell you what I think

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