CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"How to End Stop-and-Frisk Abuses"

From an editorial in the New York Times:

Commissioner Raymond Kelly of the New York Police Department issued a weak statement last week on efforts to “increase public confidence” in the city’s abusive stop-and-frisk program, which ensnares hundreds of thousands of mainly minority New Yorkers every year. Mr. Kelly seems to believe that tinkering at the margins will cure the program’s constitutional flaws. It will not.

New York should learn from Philadelphia, where the stop-and-frisk policy was the subject of a 2010 class-action suit for racial discrimination and violations of Fourth Amendment guarantees of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. Like New York police officers, Philadelphia’s were accused of using race as the basis for stops. Philadelphia settled the suit, accepting a consent decree that explicitly defined and prohibited illegal stops and put in place a court-appointed monitor to oversee stop-and-frisk practices.

. . .

By pointing out the vague and unlawful criteria used to justify stops in New York, the court decision suggested a kind of road map to reform. In tens of thousands of cases, for example, officers reported “furtive movement.” They reported that other stops had taken place in “high crime areas,” when, in fact, some had not. And, in more than 10 percent of all stops, officers reported a “suspicious bulge” — suggesting a gun — in the clothing of people they stopped, but seized guns only 0.15 percent of the time.

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