WSJ Op-Ed Advocates For Ineffective And Discriminatory "Stop-And-Frisk" Model


Wall Street Journal op-ed advocated for police around the country to use New York City's "stop-and-frisk" policy as a model, which has no proven evidence of reducing crime rates and has historically targeted racial minorities.

Stop-and-frisk, the controversial policy which allows police officers to stop and search individuals they consider to be suspicious, is currently under review in the case Floyd v. New York. The New York Police Department has conducted more than four million stops since 2002, and according to a New York Times editorial, a federal judge "noted that nearly 90 percent of the time the police found no criminal behavior." The suit charges the NYPD with illegally detaining these individuals "not because of suspicious behavior but because of their race."

In her Journal op-ed, Heather Mac Donald disputed these charges, claiming that stop-and-frisk policies in New York have "helped the city achieve an astonishing drop in violent crime" and should be New York's "most valued export" along with other NYPD policies to the rest of the nation. She claimed that stop-and-frisks overwhelmingly targeted blacks and Hispanics because "the preponderance of crime perpetrators, and victims, in New York are also minorities," and concluded the crime rate would increase nationwide if the policy were overturned.

But there is no evidence that stop-and-frisk has decreased crime in New York City. New York Magazine noted that while stop-and-frisks have "skyrocketed" in the past decade, non-fatal shootings in the city have remained steady. Stop-and-frisk has done little to identify illegal firearms, as a New York Times editorial noted, as "guns were seized in only 0.15 percent of all stops." And the New York Civil Liberties Union similarly explained that while total violent crime fell in New York City by 29 percent from 2001 to 2010, cities that did not have stop-and-frisk policies saw even larger violent crime declines in the same time period, by as much as "59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas, and 37 percent in Baltimore."

In fact, the drop in violence in New York City is part of a trend that preceded widespread use of stop-and-frisk. As the Times reported, New York's sharpest drop in homicides came before 2002, the year stop-and-frisks started rising in New York. Forbes magazine provided the following graph, showing that "the number of murders decreased sharply between 1990 and 1998," while then remaining relatively steady during the period that stop-and-frisks increased dramatically:

Graph comparing the number of frisks and murders

Furthermore, as The Atlantic reported, Mac Donald's logic that blacks and Hispanics were predominately stopped because they committed the majority of crimes does not align to NYPD data:

Supporters of Stop and Frisk have responded to criticisms of these racial disparities by stating that the program operates most intensely in neighborhoods with high crime rates. According to these supporters, the higher prevalence of crime in black and Latino neighborhoods necessitates more police activity. The disproportionate number of stops of black and Latino males, they say, has less to do with their skin color than their location.

This line of reasoning doesn't seem to line up with the NYPD's data. For instance, in Greenwich Village, which is overwhelmingly white, 70 percent of those stopped in 2011 were black or Latino. If Stop and Frisk were applied more evenly, one would expect white people to account for more than 30 percent of "suspicious" individuals in a predominately white neighborhood.

Young black and Latino men made up almost half of all stops recorded by police in 2011, despite being less than 5 percent of the city's population, and 90 percent of the time were found to be innocent. Evidence released at the trial also confirmed racial bias behind many stops, as a secret recording detailed by the New York Times editorial board revealed a superior officer urging a subordinate to stop-and-frisk "the right people," specified as "male blacks 14 to 20, 21."

The Times reported that during the closing arguments in the Floyd v. New York case, the judge "left little doubt" that she found the evidence to show that stop-and-frisk was ineffective. Mac Donald is not only advocating for nationwide implementation of a policy with no proven success in reducing crime, but one that the NYPD has already been forced to change in response to previously successful court challenges, that illustrate its basis in racial discrimination and its violations of the Fourth Amendment.

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