I have an article over at The Crime Report concerning the stop and frisk policy of the New York City Police Department.
By way of background, a “stop” is an involuntary citizen-police encounter—but it is an encounter that has not yet escalated to the point of a full blown arrest.
In other words, the person has not been handcuffed and taken into custody, but neither is he free to walk away. Often in full view of neighbors or passersby, the person may have to “assume the position” by placing his outstretched arms against a wall or the hood of a police car; or even lay down, prostrate, on the sidewalk.
It can be a degrading and humiliating event to endure….
There have been two important developments concerning the stop-and-frisk doctrine. The first concerns the absence of a remedy in the situations where the police violate a person’s constitutional rights. That is, what happens if the cops just whimsically stop someone, frisk his garments, and pepper him with questions for 5-10 minutes?
Mere curiosity as to whether the person might be holding some marijuana is not enough of a valid basis for a frisk, at least in theory.
What’s a poor person, who is totally innocent going to do in situations where the police are just fishing around? If there’s no injury, is it realistic to expect poor residents to go meet with an attorney? Even if that happened, most attorneys would turn the potential client down quickly.
An unjustified detention that lasted only a few minutes? They would likely respond that the case just isn’t worth the time and expense of litigation.
With no practical remedy for innocent persons stopped and frisked, there is not much of a downside for police to skirt the rules. So they have….
Well-to-do Americans do not realize it yet, but their right against unreasonable detentions is being trampled. They are oblivious because it’s been the minorities in the poorer sections of the city who have borne the brunt of expanding police powers.
The stop and frisk policy is a low-visibility type of police misconduct. On paper, in theory, the tactic can comply with the rules laid out by the courts, but those rules are also violated frequently with no consequences for the officers involved.
For more about the stop & frisk tactic and how it has undermined the legal protection against false arrests, see my paper on that subject, “We Own the Night.”