Stop and Frisk: the Downside to a Decrease in Crime
By Boli Bencosme
LAW 101 – 50271
2012 Summer 2 Session
Prof. John Paul
“Stop and Frisk” is a program put into effect by the New York Police Department that basically grants an officer authority to stop and search a “suspicious character” if they deem him/her to be as such. They don’t need a warrant, or see you commit a crime. 5They simply need to deem you “suspicious” to violate your 4th amendment rights without repercussions. Since its inception, New York City’s stop and frisk program has drawn much controversy stemming from the disproportionate rate of arrest. While the argument that the program violates an individual’s 4th amendment right of protection from unreasonable search and seizure could absolutely be made, that argument pales in comparison to the argument of discrimination. A disproportionate number of African Americans and Hispanics are unreasonably stopped and searched simply for looking suspicious. The original intention of this program was to reduce the level of crime (which it has) and to crack down on illegal weapons. It has now become an excuse for police to play with their authority and target innocent people.
1In 2002, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 97,296 times. 80,176, or 82 percent, were innocent. That means that out of 10 people stopped, about 8 were not just innocent, but were being unreasonably harassed by a figure of authority that could probably be assisting in a more exigent situation. In 2010, those numbers skyrocketed to 601,285 people stopped. Of those stopped, 518,849, or 88%, were found to be innocent. The shocking thing about this is the demographics of those stopped. 315,083, or 54%, were black, 189,326, or 33%, were Hispanic, while only 54,810 or 9%, were white. Despite the fact that there are 3,646,109 white people living in New York City in 2010 (44.6% of the NYC population for 2010), only 9% of people stopped and potentially harassed by police were white. This is in stark contrast to the treatment of minorities. While the argument that crime has gone down as a result of this policy could be made, the side effect is detrimental to one of the core values of the constitution and as a civil human being. Ethnicity does not predispose someone to commit a crime. The graph shown below sums up my argument best:
There are also serious societal ramifications to this policy. Being a victim of this unfair program, I can give a good example of this. One night when I got off the train from school, I went to my friend’s house, who lives near me. Before entering his house, I had a small amount of marijuana on me. When I left his apartment, he gave me a trash bag to throw out. Once I left the basement to throw out the trash, a police van pulled up and searched me. When I asked what the problem was, he said I was trespassing. Because I did not know the law, I could not properly defend myself at that moment and say that I was an invited guest, which alone would have stopped the search on the spot, and that I had committed no illegal activity. They ended up finding the marijuana that I had even before I arrived at my friend’s house and arrested me on the spot.
2“The lawmakers argue that young men found with small amounts of marijuana are being needlessly funneled into the criminal justice system and have difficulty finding jobs as a result.”
Before this, I had never been arrested, ticketed, or pulled over. I was arrested and given a court date. At the time I showed up to court, I was working and studying full time. At the court, I felt like I was a part of a disenfranchised class of people, where court and jail was a regular thing. This was completely unfamiliar to me and quite honestly scary. Imagine this happening to nearly 90% of people stopped and searched. I was victimized, not because I was a criminal, but because I was walking while...
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