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Photo Credit: Michael Fleshman/Flickr

Trump Urges Police to Reintroduce Ineffective and Racist ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Practices

While speaking in front of the world’s largest police union — the International Association of Chiefs of Police — in Orlando, Florida, President Trump recently argued that police departments in cities like Chicago must implement “ stop-and-frisk” policies to combat crime.

Trump claims that while his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was mayor of New York City, stop-and-frisk successfully caused crime to drop. Unfortunately for Trump, data from the New York Police Department during this time shows that such policies made almost no impact whatsoever on crime rates.

During this period, crime rates certainly declined in New York City. However, researchers found that the primarily causal link to this reduction in crime could likely be attributed to the number of patrol officers assigned to a given area, not the widespread use of stop-and-frisk.

The History of Stop-and-Frisk

What is stop-and-frisk? The term is thrown around somewhat frequently, but — in general use, at least — it’s not terribly specific. It’s important to look back to the 1968 U.S. Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio for a better understanding.

In 1964, a police officer witnessed three men pacing outside a jewelry store while occasionally peering inside. The officer thought this was suspicious behavior and chose to approach them. After asking the men about their business and getting an inaudible reply, the officer then patted down one of the individuals, John Terry. On his person, the officer found an illegally concealed firearm; when he conducted a pat down on the others, another gun was discovered.

The use of this evidence in the men’s trial was argued to be inadmissible by the defense because it violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unwarranted search and seizure. Eventually, this issue made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court where it was ultimately decided that the stop was constitutional — and the evidence permissible in court — because the involved officer had “reasonable suspicion” to justifiably stop and search Terry and the other men. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded that it would have been impractical to attempt to try to obtain a search warrant.

Since the ruling, use of this type of stop-and-frisk has sometimes been referred to as “Terry stops.”

This, however, did not necessarily open the doors to stop-and-frisk as a common and legal policing strategy. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the New York Police Department had failed to conduct constitutional Terry stops. Instead of using on-the-street pat downs based on reasonable suspicion, NYPD officers were often conducting searches based largely on racial profiling.

During the height of stop-and-frisk in New York City, from 2002 and 2013, hundreds of thousands of people were stopped every year. And 82 to 90 percent of the time, these individuals were innocent of any crime. Meanwhile, a disproportionate number of people stopped were either Latino — 29 to 33 percent of the time — or black -53 to 56 percent of the time.

But data and facts have never stopped President Trump from trying to push his thinly veiled authoritarian policies in the United States.

As the lone dissenter in Terry v. Ohio, Justice William O. Douglas expressed concern that the lowered legal standards for stop-and-frisk marked “a long step down the totalitarian path” and maintained that such decisions should be made “only after a full debate by the people of this country.”

Originally published at on Oct. 12, 2018.

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Writing about various things (mostly politics & social issues) for more than six years. Freelancer for hire.

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