Time to put an end to stop-and-frisk policies
The stop-and-frisk policy of the New York Police Department (NYPD) has always walked the line between being constitutional and being illegal. Now there is a federal case that started hearing testimony this week from people affected by the policy, in order to judge which side of that divide the policy lies on.
To me, the policy has always been the epitome of our failing justice system; the fact that it is being contested and has a chance of being repealed is wonderful.
The stop-and-frisk policy, which the NYPD has been implementing for almost the entirety of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, is basically New York’s interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. However, instead of needing “probable cause” to search someone in New York City, anyone can be stopped and searched if there is “reasonable suspicion” that something illegal is happening — looser wording that leads to more searches.
This policy, combined with the NYPD’s quota system — 20 summons and one arrest per month — is a bad idea because it forces police officers to see crimes where there might not be any in order to avoid being humiliated by other officers. More importantly, these policies create an air of suspicion and racial profiling.
According to The New York Times, Hispanic and black men between the ages of 14 and 24 made up 41.6 percent of those stopped and frisked even though they only constitute 4.7 percent of the city’s population. The pressure that the stop-and-frisk policy puts on police officers leads them to make stops and arrests that are usually baseless.
The quota system and stop-and-frisk policy don’t even help fight crime, as Bloomberg and NYPD officers claim. “We were handcuffing kids for no reason,” said officer Adhyl Polanco of the NYPD’s 41st Precinct in an article published in The New York Times. In the same article, Polanco talks about a time when his commander tried to fulfill a quota by telling him to write a summons for a man without a dog license even though Polanko “did not see the dog.” When he confronted a lieutenant about it, he was stripped of his badge and gun and faced disciplinary proceedings.
The case against stop-and-frisk is a class action lawsuit that will be concerned specifically with the experiences of 11 black or biracial men and one Hispanic woman. However, it is representative of the numerous people who have been frisked by the city police without suspicion because of race. The lawsuit claims that the stop-and-frisk policy violates both the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.
Hopefully, this lawsuit draws the line and causes the discontinuation of these baseless frisks.