The Case Against STOP AND FRISK
We have heard it all before. “This will handcuff the police… Crime will explode…The public safety will be at risk!”
These were just a few of the law enforcement pronouncements that emerged more than four decades ago after the Supreme Court of the United States leveled the, now famous, Miranda decision. It was widely regarded that allowing law enforcement to violate a basic right of persons only suspected of a crime or misdemeanor was the best way for police officers to properly do their job. Now, more than forty years later, we are faced with the same excuses as police forces are allowed to run roughshod over the Fourth Amendment under the auspices of public safety using the policy called STOP AND FRISK.
Having executed more than half a million Stop and Frisks annually, the New York Police Department has discovered only a negligible number of guns. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg contends that even finding one gun, which might save one life, is worth the 600,000 or more invasions into the lives and liberty of, mostly black and Latino men. If this wholly corrupt policy of Stop and Frisk is supposed to be about guns and gun violence, why are hundreds and thousands of non-gun carrying men of color being subjected to the criminal justice system for drug possession?
Award winning syndicated radio host and television personality, Don Imus, has raised millions of dollars for charity throughout his career. His wife is a best-selling author who specializes in diet and environmental issues. They run a non-profit cattle ranch in New Mexico hosting teenagers afflicted with cancer, sickle cell anemia and those siblings of victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In the past, Mr. Imus has related a story wherein a couple of homicide detectives, on a routine canvass, entered his home to question if he had seen anything relating to a recent murder in his neighborhood. According to Imus, a bunch of cocaine was out in full view at the time. Imagine the difference in all of the aforementioned lives and their families had those homicide detectives informed the Narcotics Division to get a search warrant for Mr. Imus’ premises. Now realize all of the damage done, educational and job opportunities lost, and the untold grief experienced by the multitude of individuals and their families, almost exclusively black and Latino, who have been charged with drug possession under the guise of gun violence prevention.
Police Departments have been using Stop and Frisk to bolster their arrest records and federal funding as part of the decades of failure of the War on Drugs. A more honest approach would have been for the courts to allow the confiscation of illegal drugs but the release of all suspects who were not in possession of a firearm. In August of 2012, the NYPD discovered a massive weapons cache at a home in Astoria. And in December of that same year, another major weapons arsenal was found in Greenwich Village. Another cache was discovered in Staten Island. Yet tens of thousands of Stop and Frisks did not, and do not, occur in those neighborhoods.
President Obama was targeted and Attorney General Eric Holder was called on the carpet before Congress when it was discovered that, under an ill-advised sting operation dubbed FAST AND FURIOUS, started during the GW Bush administration, weapons were lost and a federal agent was killed. However, persons of color are dying on the streets of major American cities by the hundreds, from illegal guns, and the US Congress is silent.
It is well known that many of those guns are purchased out of state and subsequently sold on the streets of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Yet the Congress has had no public hearings and called no ATF agents, supervisors or directors to testify as to their lack of effectiveness into the interstate transportation of guns, nor have they subpoenaed any Governors to testify as to how a gun purchased in their state(s) wound up killing an innocent person a thousand miles away. The death of one ATF agent as a result of a botched government program and the deaths of four diplomats at the hands of a zealous mob in Benghazi, Libya ignited the 24 hour news media as Congress allegedly vowed to get to the bottom of these tragedies. However, in neighborhoods of people of color where five deaths might be considered a calm month, the US Congress sees no such national crisis.
This targeting of minorities, under force of law, is not a new phenomenon. The inferior status of Jews was established in September 1935 by the Nuremberg Laws. According to the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE HOLOCAUST, these laws “officially revoked the civil equality won by Jews in the period of the Emancipation and gave legal force to racist principles… to separate the Jews as individuals and as a group from the rest of the population.” The Nazi policies were “calculated to eliminate the Jews from public and social life, take away their civil rights, and crush them economically.” Edward B. Westermann confirms these policies in HITLER’S POLICE BATTALIONS. He writes, “The regular police also played an important role in enforcing discriminatory ordinances and statutes… including the enforcement of the provisions of the “Nuremberg Laws” of 1935.”
The use of Stop and Frisk as a rationale for curbing gun violence should not be heralded as legitimate. There are several methods of policing that can also be used to stem the waves of gun violence. The police can use excessive force, coerced confessions, quarter officers in suspected homes, conduct warrantless searches and refuse to honor the Miranda decision. However, there exists well-documented, historical reasons among the American legal landscape as to why these methods will not be employed. And they are the very same historical reasons why the policy of Stop and Frisk should be halted.
It has not been outlawed because incarcerating and marginalizing persons of color for dubious reasons is also something we have heard before. It was infamously noted by Chief Justice Roger Taney in his Dred Scott v. Sanford majority opinion. Blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”