Fox host Eric Bolling called on the New York Police Department to engage in more racial profiling and stop-and-frisk after the terrorist attack on the offices of a satirical French magazine, but his characterization of the legality and constitutionality of race-based policing misrepresents these practices.
On January 7, masked gunmen attacked the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a French weekly that had previously run caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Right-wing media were quick to politicize the attack and describe it as an argument for the practice of race-based police tactics in America, even those prohibited by federal law or the U.S. Constitution. On the January 7 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck suggested that NYPD officers should be able to target certain communities without fear of being painted with “a racist brush.” Hasselbeck also suggested that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had demoralized the NYPD and threatened security by calling on the police to stop improper racial profiling.
As right-wing media have done repeatedly in the past, Hasselbeck failed to recognize that police practices must pass a threshold of constitutionality regardless of their alleged efficacy at imposing "order."
This narrative continued on the January 7 broadcast of Outnumbered, where Fox host Eric Bolling joined the panel to claim that people in New York should feel “anger” toward de Blasio for his efforts to eliminate unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policies and curb racial profiling. Bolling argued that police had used racial profiling “so effectively for so long” to target people who are “the type of person who's done it in the past.” Bolling went on to wonder, “How did profil[ing] become a) unethical, b) illegal? It's throughout history been the most effective law enforcement tool.” Outnumbered co-host Andrea Tantaros agreed with Bolling that “leftist mayors like de Blasio” and the Obama administration had “taken those tools away at a time when we need them the most,” and claimed that “targeting mosques” was “crucial” towards uncovering terrorist activity:
While Bolling and Tantaros were eager to blame “progressives” and “leftists” for “taking away” racial profiling and stop-and-frisk from law enforcement, it was actually former President George W. Bush who banned racial profiling in federal investigations in 2003, a fulfillment of an earlier campaign promise. As The New York Times reported, “in February 2001, in a State of the Union-style address ... he said of racial profiling: 'It's wrong, and we will end it in America.'” On December 8 of last year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he would strengthen those policies of the previous Republican administration and Department of Justice to prohibit not only racial and ethnic profiling, but also profiling on the basis of “gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity” in federal and national security investigations.
But these new rules apply only to federal law enforcement, not to local police departments like the NYPD. The NYPD's use of racial profiling in its flawed stop-and-frisk practices were recently stopped by court order and are banned by the U.S. Constitution.
The use of both racial profiling and stop-and-frisk can be properly performed as long as officers don't use the overly race-determinative version banned by both Republican and Democractic presidents or the unconstitutional version that was struck down in New York City after a federal judge ruled that the police had routinely engaged in “disproportionate and discriminatory” stops that targeted people of color in violation of the equal protection clause.
Bolling himself once recognized this when he apologized for incorrectly describing the challenged police practice in 2013, admitting that the judge in the New York case “said stop-and-frisk shouldn't go away, she simply said you really have to train police officers prior to the stop-and-frisk ... Listen, I called her an activist judge last week and I apologize because I think she's in line with the Constitution.”
Whether or not these tactics actually work -- regardless of their propriety in American society -- is a separate issue.
Though Bolling and Tantaros both claimed that racial and religious profiling as well as stop-and-frisk are “highly effective,” the truth is that those policies -- stop-and-frisk in particular -- rarely turn up any serious criminal activity and evidence has shown that they do not correlate with violent crime. A comprehensive report from the New York Civil Liberties Union that analyzed 12 years of the NYPD's own stop-and-frisk-data explained:
The NYPD often sought to justify the large number of stops on the grounds that the stop-and-frisk program was critically important to recovering guns and thus reducing shootings and murders. The NYPD's data contradict this argument.
Between 2003 and 2011, annual stops increased dramatically, but gun recoveries, which were always a tiny percentage of stops, moved up and down and any increases were quite small. During that same time, the number of shooting victims remained largely flat and murders moved up and down. By contrast, in 2012 and 2013, recorded stops dropped dramatically. At the same time shootings and murders dropped dramatically.