Stop & Frisk, The Summer Rerun

That bastion of deep thought and tabloid integrity, the New York Post, asks the question:

Just how many New Yorkers must die before Mayor de Blasio lets cops bring back stop-and-frisk?

Stacey Calhoun has a right to know. His nephew Jahhad Marshall — a 23-year-old aspiring chef — was caught in the crossfire and shot to death in Queens early Saturday, one of four horrific murders this weekend.

“We need stop-and-frisk,” a teary-eyed Calhoun told The Post. “Somebody has to put their foot down.”

There was a crime, a tragedy, and an uncle whose loss demands the evisceration of constitutional rights?  It’s not that Stacey Calhoun should be blamed for the desire to prevent the needless taking of his nephew’s life. Families grasp at anything they can when tragedy strikes.

But editorial boards that pander through a flagrant appeal to emotion know what they are doing, and add insult to injury when they cynically use a victim’s family to further their own agenda. On the other hand, it’s comforting to see the Post maintaining its standards.

Even convicted felon and former police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, who shed his convict advocate” role a few minutes after he learned he couldn’t make a buck off it, wants in on the action:

New York City’s “stop-and-frisk” policy, which Mayor Bill de Blasio ended when he took office, was a successful tool for reducing crime, former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said Monday, and now that it’s gone he believes violent crime will continue to rise as a result.

“You can’t take away the programs that were successful, and that’s what this mayor has done, consistently,” Kerik said on the Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” show. “From staff’s perspective, it’s a great tool. It’s something they needed to go out and look for guns. It’s something they needed to reduce crime.”

And the NYPD hears the cries, and they’re bringing stop and frisk back.

Police are changing some tactics to react to what they see as senseless violence. There are 22 more murders this year than at this time last year.

Surprisingly, however, someone finally got the message.

Stop, Question and Frisk never went away; it’s just being used in what police hope is a more prudent manner and more motivated manner. They want to be able to justify those stops.

There are two “stop and frisks” out there. One is the policy put in place by New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, where cops tossed people on a whim, mostly because they were told they had to make numbers for CompStat and saw a few black kids walking down the street.  That’s the one where millions of minority males were stopped and frisked for no better reason than they were minority males, and produced mind-numbingly little benefit.

On the flip side, there is the legal concept of stop and frisk, born of Terry v. Ohio and New York’s flavor, People v. DeBour.  Where articulable reasonable suspicion exists, the police are entitled to stop a person to inquire. Where there is articulable reasonable suspicion to believe that the person stopped presents a threat of danger, they are entitled to conduct a superficial frisk.

That’s not a police program. That’s the law. It was the law before New York City police decided to throw black and Hispanic guys against the wall, and it’s still the law. Nothing has changed, either in its lawfulness or availability to every cop on the street.

By conflating the law and the program of the same name, the media and police have managed to turn this into a circus of stupid.  The sort of thing Kerik and the Post call for isn’t law, but the lawless approach prohibited by Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin, and ended by Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Calling a flagrant violation of constitutional rights “stop and frisk” doesn’t make it constitutional. Hell, it doesn’t even make it effective, given how few guns the program took off the street.

If the NYPD has learned the error of its ways, and will now employ its officers to engage in stop and frisk as the law properly authorizes it to do, then there is no issue with it. The cops have the authority to do this; they always did.

But then, what have they been doing in the meantime?  Have police observed conduct giving rise to a reasonable suspicion that a person has, is or will engage in criminal conduct, and turned the other way?  Have they exercised their right to inquire, seen an inexplicable bulge in a waistband, and done nothing?

No one, no matter how strongly they feel about constitutional rights, takes the view that the police should ignore crime.  Rather, that they should respect the constitutional rights of citizens while doing their job.  This isn’t really as nuanced a position as it may first appear.

Yet, the fact that there are calls for the cops to engage again in an unconstitutional program, while the police suggest that they’re performing their duty as the law authorizes them, suggests that the cops are still laboring under mass confusion as to what the law permits and what they’re being told to do.  Stupid as it seems, the problem appears to stem from the fact that the words “stop and frisk” have this double meaning.

If the NYPD performed “stop and frisk” as the law provides, they should be taking guns off at least half the people stopped. And if they were actually good at their job, the number should be closer to 90%, rather than the 90% stopped for no reason whatsoever under the program “stop and frisk.”  It’s time to end the confusion, silence the ignorant cries for the unconstitutional “program” and expect the cops to do their job, lawfully, smartly and effectively.

And then, maybe Stacey Calhoun’s nephew would still be alive.

7 thoughts on “Stop & Frisk, The Summer Rerun

  1. David M.

    Rumors say the New York Post, in a bid to compete with Buzzfeed on quality, is hiring a new reporter in charge of limericks, criminal-justice analysis and listicles. Leaked from his upcoming article, Three Mindblowing Reasons Why Stop-And-Frisk Is Exactly What They Deserve (#3 Will Make You Cry)

    1) We toss them to end urban strife.
    2) But what if that black has a knife?
    3) Per frisk, per detention
    divine intervention
    restoreth a kitten to life.

  2. John Barleycorn

    How long do you think it will be before NYC will have pedestrian pre check cards?

    I can’t wait to read the questions on the application myself.

    Neck lanyards are gonna be the new fashion statement in less than a decade.

    The way I see it, wide patterns and vibrant colors will be bringing back polyester to create a whole new Pollyanna Paradise via neck lanyards.


          1. John Barleycorn

            One of these days you should give polyester over latex a try.

            But anyway, since you mentioned it, do you figure the symmetry of their individual potbellies would figure into who would be wearing the gloves if Colin “Col” Allan and Patrick Lynch ever did latex speedo commercial promoting a safe streets/nothing to hide campaign?

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