Stop Stop-and-Frisk

JJ Citron Class of 2020

Damn Donald, back at it again with the misguided policy. On September 21, Trump outlined his plans for criminal justice reform at a town-hall meeting in Cleveland Heights, Ohio; he emphasized his intent to utilize stop-and-frisk policing if elected. Stop-and-frisk is a practice in which police officers stop and question a pedestrian, then search them for weapons and other contraband. Blacks and Hispanics make up just slightly more than 50 percent of New York’s population, yet between 2004 and 2012, 83 percent of stops in New York involved these groups. More recently, 83 percent of the people stopped under the practice in 2015 were black or Latino, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. With these statistics in mind, it is clear that there is a connection between racial profiling and stops. In 2013 U.S. District Court, Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled the policy unconstitutional as it was put into effect.

Stop-and-frisk is not utilized solely in New York. In the summer of 2014, the Chicago Police Department made 25,000 stops that did not result in arrests. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.), 72 percent of the people stopped were African American. The Chicago police significantly curbed the number of stops after the A.C.L.U. threatened to sue; as a result, the Illinois legislative body passed a law that required increased oversight of stops. In this way, it is clear that stop-and-frisk is directly connected to racial profiling.

Trump stated that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani did a “great job” by giving the police the authority to stop and search people at random. Current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken care to dismantle the use of stop-and-frisk by the NYPD, and stated that Trump’s proposed policy, “will simply alienate the very people who we need to be partners with in the fight against crime.”

Does the executive branch have the authority to control local law enforcement? Thanks to a course in Presidency and Executive Leadership, I am certain that the answer is no. It is within neither Trump’s jurisdiction nor job description to control such a matter. Boris Epshteyn, a Trump campaign spokesman expressed that “[Donald Trump] wants [stop-and-frisk] to be applied by police departments where it is necessary.” I am glad that Trump wants stop-and-frisk to be used in the criminal justice system, but in reality he has no authority to directly control this.

Crimes rates have lowered significantly in New York relative to the second half of the 20th century. But at what expense? Stop-and-frisk perpetuates racial profiling, a problem prevalent within the criminal justice system. A spokesman for the Trump campaign stated on September 22 that Mr. Trump did not intend to endorse racial or economic profiling. So what exactly did he intend to endorse? The answer is unclear.

Stop-and-frisk resulted from Broken Windows Theory which according to the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University, “focuses on the importance of disorder (e.g., broken windows) … disorder leads to fear and withdrawal from residents, which then allows more serious crime to move in because of decreased levels of informal social control.” Here’s a news flash for you, Mr. Trump: Broken Windows Theory only hurt relations between minorities and the police, and so will stop-and-frisk if implemented. Perhaps Trump should focus less on Broken Windows Theory and more on the broken spirits that would ensue from such a policy.