Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The Atlantic's Donald Braman writes:
When former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly was asked what would happen if stop-and-frisk were curtailed, his response was characteristic of his tenure: “No question about it,” he said “violent crime will go up.” When homicides rose in Chicago, Chicagoans clamored for NYPD-style stop-and-frisk. The same premise is repeated by proponents of stop-and-frisk throughout Daniel Bergner’s illuminating Atlantic article: if you want to reduce crime, you have to be willing to suffer more aggressive policing tactics.
In reality, there’s no good reason to assume that these strategies work to reduce crime. David Greenberg has conducted the most comprehensive analysisof the relationship between the NYPD’s practice of stop-and-frisk and crime levels to date, and he finds “no evidence that misdemeanor arrests reduced levels of homicide, robbery, or aggravated assaults.”
No one thinks a police officer with a reasonable suspicion that a suspect has a gun should be barred from frisking the suspect, but that is not what stop-and-frisk has come to mean. The now-abandoned practice of requiring officers (often fresh out of the academy) to meet performance goals for citations and arrests seems wrong on several levels, but the most fundamental one is that it doesn’t reduce crime. A close second is the increased costs to families and communities. As Bruce Western, Amanda Geller, Christopher Wildeman, andmany others have described, the collateral damage from broad criminalization is far-reaching, and concentrated on the populations that can least afford them.
So why are so many so enamored of these dubious tactics?