The Five Frisks Away Stop-And-Frisk Facts

The co-hosts of Fox News' The Five struggled to grasp the facts surrounding the New York City Police Department's (NYPD) use of a law enforcement tool known as stop-and-frisk. In their rush to attack a federal court decision finding the NYPD tactics violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, the Fox figures bungled even the most basic stop-and-frisk facts.

Federal judge Shira Scheindlin ruled on August 12 that the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York City. According to the New York Times, Scheindlin determined that “the Police Department resorted to a 'policy of indirect racial profiling' as it increased the number of stops in minority communities. That has led to officers' routinely stopping 'blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.'” Indeed, between 2011 and 2012, nearly nine out of ten people stopped by NYPD for a stop-and-frisk were black or Hispanic.

Fox's The Five responded by attacking the decision with a litany of falsehoods about stop-and-frisk, mangling even the most basic aspects of the practice.

Various co-hosts claimed the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy was behind the reduction in murder rates and firearms confiscations in New York City. 

While New York's violent crime rates are indeed falling, statistics indicate this is not due to the NYPD's accelerated stop-and-frisk program. New York's murder rate began dropping before stop-and-frisk was ramped up. According to Forbes contributor Naomi Robbins, the “astronomical increase in stop-and-frisk came well after the significant decrease in number of murders, and thus cannot be the cause of the drop.” As for guns, fewer than 0.5 percent of stop-and-frisk stops produce one, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union:

Tellingly, the hosts ignored the fact that multiple cities without similar stop-and-frisk policies have had greater reductions in violent crime than New York.

Co-hosts Gutfeld and Guilfoyle dismissed the court's ruling that stop-and-frisk was being implemented in a racially discriminatory manner, even dubiously claiming that the practice enjoys popular support in areas where it's being utilized most frequently. Guilfoyle argued that being stopped and frisked by police officers is “not unreasonable ... it's not that intrusive.” Gutfeld claimed that “none of the anti-stop-and-frisk people live in areas plagued by violence ... you can go and condemn this stop-and-frisk without experience [sic] the consequences.”

Gutfeld went on to unironically co-opt a punchline from Comedy Central's The Daily Show to support his argument in favor of stop-and-frisk, arguing that stop-and-frisk is analgous to the Transportation Security Agency at an airport: “When we fly, we are stopped, but we deal with it, because we don't want to be blown out of the sky ... So if people get upset, they have to, I guess, learn to live with it because it helps their community.”

Despite the pair's claim, polling has shown that only 25 percent of African-American New Yorkers -- who have been the primary targets of stop-and-frisk -- approve of the tactic. According to USA Today, overall approval for stop-and-frisk is a mere 45 percent city-wide.

Co-host Eric Bolling's contribution to the fray came in the form of a tragically off-base misunderstanding about what the stop-and-frisk controversy is all about -- he confused the constitutionality of stop-and-frisk as a law enforcement tool with the NYPD's ramped-up policy of systematic stops found to violate the constitution. Bolling argued that the stop-and-frisk debate is a non-controversy, because stop-and-frisk was found to be constitutional by the Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio, saying “That was 1968. Forty-five years ago it's been in place. Now all of a sudden it's become unreasonable?”

The constitutionality of the stop-and-frisk practice as a police tool is not at issue, however. The question is in how the NYPD utilized the practice. Time pointed out that “use of Stop and Frisk increased in New York after the 1994 introduction of CompStat, a statistics-based crime tracking system.” Since 1994, the number of stops has increased dramatically, and as Time noted, “did not affect New Yorkers uniformly”:

While proactive searches are common practice in many police departments, use of Stop and Frisk increased in New York after the 1994 introduction of CompStat, a statistics-based crime tracking system. For the past decade, the number of UF-250 forms (the document NYPD officers fill out when they stop and frisk someone) filed by a unit has factored into its performance grade, creating an incentive for more stops. The tactic was also the centerpiece of a 2002 effort to find and remove more guns from city streets.

But the stops did not affect New Yorkers uniformly. The vast majority occurred in lower-income, minority neighborhoods. From 2003 to 2008, the highest cumulative number of stops occurred in poorer neighborhoods such as East Harlem, Brooklyn's East New York and Jamaica, Queens. The neighborhoods with the lowest number of stops were wealthier parts of the city such as downtown and midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn's Park Slope. In 52% of 4.4 million stops between 2004 and 2012, the person stopped was black. In 31%, the person was Hispanic.

In ruling for the targets of these stops, Scheindlin put in motion a process to undo that alleged bias. She appointed a federal monitor, an independent lawyer from the New York office of Arnold and Porter, Peter L. Zimroth, to oversee reforms at the NYPD, which will likely involve more training for police, better supervision of officers, and changes to the way data is collected and analyzed.

None of these facts are likely to sway The Five, however. As Guilfoyle noted, she's not interested in playing “number gymnastics” when it comes to debating a policy about which she's already made up her mind.