How Stop/Frisk in New York City is unconstitutional
A federal judge has allowed (not ruled but just allowed) a court case to proceed on the clearly unconstitutional practice of stop/frisk in New York City.
Technically stop/frisk are two different things. Stop supposedly needs only reasonable suspicion. The frisk part requires an officer to determine that the person stopped is dangerous enough to frisk his clothes for weapons. About 1/2 the time stops results in frisks. The frisks are supposed to search for weapons that might be used against the officer during that encounter.
In reality they are for much more, they are searches to get weapons off the street (not the purpose allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court when it allowed frisks) and for drugs. Frisking for drugs with no probable cause, let alone shaky reasonable suspicion, is clearly unconstitutional. But again, according to the police it seems, the Constitution and the 4th Amendment are merely guidelines.
The police (even though NYPD Commissior Ray Kelly sent a memo to all officers to remind them against it) continue to arrest individuals for marijuana possession even after searching pockets or ordering them to be emptied.
In New York state, since the 1970s, it is not illegal (though a civil violation) to have small amounts of marijuana along as it isn't in plain view. Of course, it should not illegal at all, other than maybe along the lines of alcohol open container offenses.
Indeed, out of 685,424 stops in 2011, a little over .1% of them led to the recovery of guns. In fact, while the number of stops more than quadrupled from 2003 to 2011, the number of guns recovered only went up about 35%. One gun per 266 stops in 2003 v. one gun per 1000 plus stops in 2011. Very diminishing returns.
Now, if you think, well at least those guns are off the street, there are a few points to remember. If police weren't engaging in these unconstitutional acts they would be involved in other policing that would have some impact on reducing potential crime, so we can never know for sure the total net effect of stop/frisk.
Second, if the whole point was recovering guns, than we could allow the police to engage in random non-consensual searches of houses. Those who are on the ultra-rightwing and are O.K. with stop/frisk would probably support it, along as it was only in poor/minority areas. After all, that is how stop/frisk is done currently.
Now, are African Americans targeted for greater scrunity by police because they are more likely to reside in more dangerous areas, than whites? Maybe, but a study by research group, Rand, showed a hit rate of 3.3% of the time when a black citizen is stopped and frisked, versus a 6.4% when a white citizen is stopped and risked.
Hit being guns, other weapons, drugs or something else illegal. Obviously the criteria for stopping someone who is white versus someone who is black, is much higher. Whites might actually be stopped if there is actual reasonable suspicion, legally, for the officer's actions.
Indeed, NYPD officer Adil Polanco had bogus charges filed against him by his department for recording his superiors telling officers to make wrongful summons and arrests. In face, a high ranking NYPD cop told Polanco to issue a summons to a man without a dog license, though Polanco, as legally required, didn't even see a dog. The fact is, officers are still pressured to make arrests, because advancement often is a matter of how many they can issue. Ironically, the NYPD commonly downgrades serious violent offenses, to keep crime rates down.
The fact is stop/frisk, though maybe having some positive effect on reducing crime (though can never be certain) is clearly unconstitutional. Do we effectively suspend the constitutional rights of citizens of minority areas, that is what we should be asking ourselves.