Stop And Frisk Is Criminal

Stop And Frisk

The NYT reports that a “federal judge has found that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York, and called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms.” Leroy Downs, a Staten Island substance-abuse counselor who took part in a class-action lawsuit against the city, feels vindicated:

This is something that people in the community are going through every single day, so I feel good that the judge affirmed that we’re not lying; we’re not making it up; it’s not that so-and-so witness has a grudge against the police. These things are happening to us and it’s impeding our lives. I just want to be able to go to the store and walk home without being accused of something.

Mayor Bloomberg, who has already announced an appeal, thinks New York City will collapse without stop-and-frisk:

In a good-cop-bad-cop routine with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the mayor argued that the court “ignored the real-world realities of crime” and “displayed disturbing disregard for the good intentions of our police officers,” but he really got heated at reporters who dared question his immovable stance. To one journalist – but really to all of them and any critic of stop-and-frisk, however moderate – Bloomberg exclaimed, “You couldn’t be more wrong!”

Jack Dunphy made the same case a little more crudely:

I do not endorse, nor should any police officer endorse, extra-constitutional means to achieve law-enforcement ends, no matter how noble. But in the Bronx, a week ago Sunday, an NYPD officer shot and killed 14-year-old Shaaliver Douse as he, Douse, was attempting to shoot some rival gang member. Would it not be preferable that the police had stopped and frisked Douse before his crime than shot him after? And is there anyone who believes that the added layer of federal bureaucracy over the NYPD, with all its inherent inefficiencies, will make the city safer? Liberals, especially those who would never dare set foot in the Bronx, can rejoice at Judge Scheindlin’s ruling, then watch the bodies begin to pile up.

Jacob Sullum, on the other hand, welcomes the ruling:

The result-oriented approach that Bloomberg takes is inherently hostile to civil liberties, which by design make law enforcement more difficult.

“This case is not about the effectiveness of stop and frisk in deterring or combating crime,” [Judge Shira] Scheindlin writes. “This Court’s mandate is solely to judge the constitutionality of police behavior, not its effectiveness as a law enforcement tool. Many police practices may be useful for fighting crime – preventive detention or coerced confessions, for example—but because they are unconstitutional they cannot be used, no matter how effective.” Police and their boosters tend to lose sight of this distinction, which is why we need judges like Scheindlin to enforce it.

Ta-Nehisi believes that discrimination is inexcusable:

As I’ve noted before Ray Kelly and Michael Bloomberg justify the number of stops by arguing that black and Latino men commit the majority of violent crime. This position intentionally ignores the fact the data which shows, even after controlling for crime rates, the NYPD still discriminates. It’s very important that people interested in this case understand that.

Adam Serwer argues along the same lines:

Inspiring fear in criminals by targeting anyone who shares their racial background was the sometimes unstated subtext of stop-and-frisk, and the reason why many support racial and ethnic profiling from street crime to the war on terror.  It’s also why stop-and-frisk was so clearly unconstitutional. “The goal of deterring crime is laudable,” Scheindlin wrote, “but this method is unconstitutional.” Defenders of stop-and-frisk seemed to know that from the beginning. They just hoped that if they could convince people it worked, it wouldn’t matter.

Philip Bump reviews the numbers:

This chart explains why the judge determined that the city’s policy was unacceptable.

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 5.19.23 PM

It shows:

• That crime has dropped largely independently of the fluctuations of the number of stop-and-frisks. It began going up in 2011 – alongside more stop-and-frisks.

• The number of murders in 2012 dropped alongside the number of stop-and-frisks.

• In every year, almost all of the stop-and-frisks (red line) were of people who were innocent (yellow line) and / or a person of color (orange line). The gap between the red line and the orange line is the number of those stopped who were not black or Latino.

And Kevin Drum wants further investigation into the causes of New York’s crime drop:

If stop-and-frisk really is the reason crime has dropped so dramatically in the Bronx, then a judge would be justified in weighing this against the legal issues on the other side. Even decisions based on fundamental constitutional rights aren’t rendered in a vacuum. But if reductions in atmospheric lead are the primary reason for the drop in crime, then stop-and-frisk really has no justification at all, and the judge’s decision becomes an easy one. That’s why it’s worth getting a more definitive answer about this. Other cities have seen dramatic crime drops without expanding their stop-and-frisk programs as aggressively as New York, and it would sure be worthwhile to find out how and why that happened.

(Chart from a 2010 report (pdf) by the Center On Race, Crime And Justice)