Stop, Question and Frisk Is Not The Enemy – Crime Is

By , September 16th, 2012 | Editorial, New York, Police | 8 Comments

New York City Police Department has come under fire in the past years in the courts and the public realm for its “Stop, Question and Frisk” (SQF) crime-fighting tactic.  Often bastardized by its critics as “stop-and-frisk,” many like the New York Civil Liberties Union charge that it unfairly targets minorities while groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights have blatantly called it racial profiling.  This effective and legal tool that helped lower New York City’s crime rate should not be cast aside.

For the sake of full disclosure, I am a gay Caucasian police officer married to a naturalized Hispanic U.S. citizen.

SQF, otherwise known as the Terry Stop, gets its origin from the 1968 U.S. Supreme Court Terry vs. Ohio case.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security describes the purpose of SQF “is to conduct a brief investigation to confirm or deny that the suspect is involved in criminal activity. A law enforcement officer may initiate a Terry stop when he or she suspects that an individual is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime, but probable cause does not yet exist to arrest and the officer wants to ‘stop’ the suspect and investigate. If, during the stop, probable cause to arrest is developed, the suspect will be arrested. If probable cause is not developed, the suspect is released.”

A comparison of the crime rate of New York with Chicago, a city whose police force the New York Post reports “stops but usually don’t frisk them in search of weapons, though they’re authorized to do so,” demonstrates the effectiveness of SQF.  In direct comparison, the NY Post informs that Chicago had 275 murders in the first half of 2012, 22 percent more than New York for the same period, a city three times the size of Chicago.

As for the yearly totals of the federally tracked seven major felony offenses, Chicago PD reports indicate that their crime was higher in 2000 – 2008 than what NYPD reported levels.  While Chicago’s crime rate did dip below New York’s in 2009 -2011, if population level correction was factored in, Chicago’s crime rate supersedes New York.

New York Times informs that Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) also utilized an aggressive and effective SQF policy up through 2010 until it decided to settle a class-action lawsuit brought against the PPD by American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg.  Their claim alleged “that thousands of people each year are stopped, frisked, searched, and detained solely on the basis of their race or ethnicity by the Philadelphia Police Department as part of its stop-and-frisk policy.”

Since that settlement, crime has increased.  PPD reports that as homicide victims decreased from the beginning of the policies use in 2007 to 2009, they started to rise again stating in 2010, both year-end and year-to-date as of Sept. 15, 2012.

Homicide Victims 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Year-End Totals 324 306 302 331 391
Homicide Victims 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Year-To-Date Sept 15, 2012 253 231 219 210 234 296

PPD Police Commissioner Charles. H Ramsey told the New York Times that in most of the 2012 homicide case, both the victims and the killers were black or Hispanic.  So when PPD police officers are searching for those the majority of those killers, most suspects that are SQF are going to be black or Hispanic.

Even San Francisco, the last bastion of civil liberties, is considering implementation of SQF to battle violent crime. The San Francisco Chronicle said that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is interested in utilizing SQF to keep up the San Francisco Police Department’s good work and ensuring that violent crime does not start rising again.

The problem many have is looking past numbers and percentages when it comes to race and applying common sense.  SQF is affected more often in high crime areas and with suspects that fit the profiles of those wanted by the police. If PPD’s homicide detectives were stopping an equal amount of whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians, they would be wasting precious time and resources. Rolling back SQF means letting crime roll back in and that is unacceptable.

Feature photo credit: bobsfever via photopin cc

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