Stop And Frisk is Not Based Upon Racial Profiling

The Baltimore Sun is now questioning whether its city should adopt New York City's Stop and Frisk policies, hoping that an implementation of this policy could lead to a reduction in the high number of homicides and encourage population growth in Baltimore.

Delmonte Thomas, a 20 year old, was gunned down in West Baltimore several days ago. The paper queried, "Had Baltimore police been conducting stop-and-frisks of young African American men ... might they have prevented Thomas' death?" The article points out that New York City is 13 times larger than Baltimore, and yet, Baltimore had 152 homicides in 2013, compared to 213 in New York City.

The debate about Stop and Frisk is ongoing. As more African American youths are murdered, the questions will arise over and over again. It is worth re-discussing this issue on PolicyMic without the histrionics of the past. Can Stop and Frisk tactics be altered so that it decreases homicides and still be constitutional?

I read the comments on my essay, "All Americans Should Support Stop and Frisk" with great interest. Frankly, I was not surprised by the negativity of the commentators, nor the fact that most critics completely disregarded the point of my article. I was not shocked that political correctness ruled the debate for so many as they made speeches about how the police regularly violate their civil liberties. I rue the day when our country decreases the authority of our brave police officers, which seems to have great support among liberals in America today.

In my original article, I wanted to point out that Stop and Frisk “logically” should have a positive impact on the African American community because it suffers most from violence relating to weapons. I was not opining on the constitutionality of the technique (I wrote this in the article), nor was I ignoring the societal stigma of being subjected to aggressive and illegal police activities. In a nutshell, I was asking why would any African American mother be against legal police actions that decrease the chances her son or daughter being caught in a crossfire of bullets. If most homicides are perpetrated against one group, then any efforts to take weapons off the street will benefit them the most. And, it is not just the reduction in crime year to year that needs to be considered. We will never know how many crimes did not happen if troublemakers are somehow encouraged to not carry weapons. Unfortunately, the metrics don’t tell the whole story in this debate. 

The fact of the matter is that street crime is not something that happens often in the tony neighborhoods of New York City. Harlem and the South Bronx, along with other high-poverty and violent areas, are where most people, including many young people, are killed. It’s happening in the neighborhoods where most of those who are dead set against extraordinary police action live. Why this is so escapes me. 

Stop and Frisk, per se, is not unconstitutional unless people are being stopped illegally. In this regard, Ray Kelly, NYPD Commissioner, said, “[racial profiling] is prohibited by law, it is prohibited by [NYPD] regulations.” Judge Shira Sheindlin said, “[that the] policy unfairly targets blacks and Hispanics,” which is unconstitutional. Point and counterpoint.

All big cities are subjected to relatively higher levels of crime than suburban and rural areas. Therefore, police departments in urban areas are under more pressure to keep the peace. If Stop and Frisk is applied in a constitutionally acceptable fashion, many believe it can have a meaningful impact. However, if political correctness pervades (and all Stop and Frisk efforts are prohibited), the risks of crime increasing in lower socioeconomic areas will increase. If it does increase, we can expect many of the same people fighting against Stop and Frisk now to be complaining about the lack of adequate police protection.

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Sal Bommarito

I spend most of my time writing a screenplay based on three of my published novels.

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