The Future of Stop and Frisk

910919_68884786In the mid 1980’s America became the victim of what the media reported as the “crack epidemic”. Cocaine was being broken down into a smokable form, which allowed for a purer and cheaper version of the drug. Due to the availability and price, crack became widely used throughout America. The rise in drug use also sparked a rise in crime. Homicides doubled, and 60% of America’s inmates were serving time related to drug offenses. New York was one of the hardest hit cities in America. New York City’s street violence increased, as did spousal and child abuse. As the government finally began to crack down on the epidemic, and as the drug became scarcer, New York City’s crime rate eventually began to fall. Over twenty years have passed, and New York’s crime rate is as low as ever. Many have attributed this decline to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg’s policies on crime, and their support of stop and frisk. Stop and frisk allows officers to stop, question, and search anyone they view as suspicious. What many do not realize is that New York’s crime rate was falling before Giuliani even took office, and before stop and frisk was enforced. Earlier this year Judge Sheira Scheindlin ruled that the stop and frisk program was unconstitutional and reform was needed. However, her ruling was quickly appealed, which allowed for stop and frisk to continue being abused. With Bill De Blasio recently becoming the new Mayor of New York City, much more public attention is being put on stop and frisk, and how De Blasio plans to change it. Stop and frisk has not been proven to deter crime, and in its current state, it is ineffective, and is centered on racial profiling.

Ray Kelly, the current and longest serving commissioner of the NYPD has attributed stop and frisk to New York’s drop in crime. However, other cities in America have experienced even larger declines in crime, without the aid of stop and frisk. Los Angeles for example saw a decline of 59% in violent crimes between 2001 and 2010. In August of this year Walter Walker and Matthew Best of New York were arrested for weapon smuggling. Over the span of a few months an undercover officer bought over 200 guns from Walker. Natasha Velez, the author of the article writes in her introduction, “Even the gun runners know stop-and-frisk works”. A recorded telephone call between Walker and Best reveals Walker referring to the stop and frisk law. However, this incident is a perfect example of how stop and frisk is problematic. Walker recognized the law, yet he was still responsible for one of the biggest gun smuggling operations the city has ever seen. Who knows how many guns Walker and Best could have put on the street before they were caught. Stop and frisk may deter crime, but if it does so, it is on too small of a level to make any difference. Offenders such as Walker have discovered means of getting past the law, such as moving weapons through the bus system.

The stop and frisk program is also highly ineffective, mainly due to its high rate of stops and low rate of results. In 2011, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were stopped by police. Out of 685,724 people, almost 90 percent were innocent and let go. Weapons are found within 0.2 percent of all stops. The stop and frisk program has been accredited with getting guns off the street, but the statistics show that isn’t exactly true. Stop and frisk has also allowed for more mistakes to be made. During a stop and frisk earlier this year, Love Olatunjiojo was arrested for the possession of crystal meth. The officer who arrested him claimed to be an “expert at identifying meth”. The only problem is that what the officer believed to be meth, were actually blue and red jolly ranchers. After Olatunjiojo’s friends intervened by stating, “it’s only candy” they were arrested as well. Olatunjiojo spent the night in jail, where he said he suffered emotionally. Olatunjiojo has filed a lawsuit against the NYPD and the men who arrested him and his friends that night. This is one of many examples of how mistakes are often made when officers conduct stop and frisk searches. Olatujiojo will most likely win this case, causing the city of New York to lose even more money for a ridiculous mistake made by one man. Olatujiojo is also just one of many who were stopped most likely due to their race.

Tyquan Brehon, a resident of Brooklyn, claims to have been stopped by police more than 60 times before he reached the age of 18. Officers never told Brehon why he was being stopped, and after asking officers to explain, he was taken into the nearest police department. Like many other minorities, Brehon has lost his trust in law enforcement and has instead come to fear officers, due to their aggressiveness and misconduct during stop and frisk procedures. A study recently released by the Center for Constitutional Rights shows that more force is used in Spanish speaking precincts in New York, during stop and frisk procedures. This isn’t a very surprising outcome to the study, when compared to the NYPD’s own stop and frisk data, which shows a trend of minorities often being targeted. In 2011, 55 percent of people stopped by officers were black, 32 percent were Latino, and only 10 percent were white. Seeing as close to 50 percent of New Yorkers are white, it is obvious some type of racial profiling is involved when officers are conducting these stops. According to The New Yorker’s opinion video on stop and frisk, it is illegal for officers to stop someone unless they are suspected of committing a crime; also it is illegal to frisk someone unless they are suspected of having a weapon.

Before his election, Bill De Blasio often commented on New York City and its law enforcement, he often spoke out about stop and frisk. After hearing about the federal appeals court’s decision to halt Scheindlin’s ruling, democratic candidate Bill De Blasio responded to the ruling stating that he was, “extremely disappointed”. Now that he is mayor, De Blasio can finally get to work on making some changes to New York City’s law enforcement, hopefully creating a new system that will work for everyone despite what race they may be.

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