Stop-and-frisk is a sham, but Trump pretends otherwise | Editorial

on October 03, 2016

 

In the first presidential debate, moderator Lester Holt dropped a torch into the right wing fever swamp and set off a bombastic explosion.

The NBC anchor stated that stop-and-frisk had been ruled unconstitutional in New York, and the response was instantaneous: Donald Trump bleated that he was wrong, wrong, wrong; Rudy Giuliani fired off an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that included punctuation and everything; and Chris Christie, flaunting his renowned urbanity, called Holt "an idiot."

Actually, Holt was mostly right, but it is irrelevant to Trump's solemn belief, which is that stop-and-frisk is essential in any society ruled by serious law-and-order people like him. And that argument is rubbish, for two reasons:

  1. Stop-and-frisk doesn't work. There is a decade of empirical evidence that proves that it not only didn't reduce crime in New York, it alienated entire minority populations.
  2. And the only reason to make stop-and-frisk a national policy is that it targets, abuses, and imprisons citizens who would never vote for Donald Trump in the first place.

Team Trump isn't entirely wrong on the legal argument. Stop-and-frisk is constitutional and practiced in all 50 states – including New York. But in 2013, a federal judge found that it is unconstitutional in the way it is practiced by the NYPD – which was racist on a mathematical scale – and today there is a court-appointed monitor that ensures the NYPD isn't frisking people on vague precepts and violating the Fourth and 14th Amendments.

So New York has virtually abandoned the practice: There were 685,724 instances in 2011, but only 22,939 in 2015.

But if Trump's overarching theme is that stop-and-frisk works "tremendously well" in taking guns from bad guys, he cannot prove it. The Center for Constitutional Rights, which won the 2013 case, reminded us Tuesday:

"In 2011 in New York, with 685,000 stops, records show 106,669 major felonies," the CCR wrote. "There were dire warnings about how crime would soar if police were forced to cease using stop and frisk. Yet in 2015, with only 23,000 stops - just 3.36 percent of the number four years earlier – the records show fewer major felonies: 105,453, to be exact."

Murders also dropped in that period, from 515 to 356.

It was racial profiling by another name: At peak practice in 2011, 87 percent of those stopped in New York were black or Hispanic - even though they make up only half the population combined - and only 9 percent were white. That year, cops found nothing 88 percent of the time – not a gun, not a joint, not a sharp stick.

Most of the arrests had nothing to do with guns. Over an eight-year period of the Bloomberg Administration, the NYPD confiscated 6,000 guns in 4.4 million stops – or about one-tenth of one percent.

Indeed, cops must be proactive in some circumstances, and they can't be seen as agents of oppression just for showing up and doing their jobs.

But the deterrent effect Team Trump promotes is "modest. . . .with a relatively small prevention gain," according to the last study of NYPD data. And it's troubling that Trump never considers how discriminatory and dehumanizing it is for those being policed.

So he will cling to the politics of Magic Bean-ism, an Elect Me And Crime Will Stop narrative - which, like the candidate himself, is a fiction.

The issue's real relevance is that he advocates racial profiling, which has created an insuperably divided country and an unjust system, the only kind where a candidate like Donald Trump can exist.

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