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Stop and Frisk Essay

My name is _________ and I am here to bring attention to the “Stop and Frisk Laws” and how they affect our youth and damage our society. Also through this exchange of information I hope to show how these type of laws go against our constitutional rights. First let’s ask what does Stop and frisk actually mean legally? “It’s the situation in which a police officer who is suspicious of an individual detains the person and runs his hands lightly over the suspect’s outer garments to determine if the person is carrying a concealed weapon.” When and where did this derive from? Well In 1968 the Supreme Court addressed the issue in terry v. Ohio, 392. In Terry an experienced plainclothes officer observed three men acting suspiciously; they were walking back and forth on a street and peering into a particular store window. The officer concluded that the men were preparing to rob a nearby store and approached them. Identifying himself as a police officer he asked for their names bust was unsatisfied with their responses, he then subjected one of the men to a frisk, which produced a gun where as the man had no permit for. In this case the officer did not have a warrant nor did he have probable cause. The defendants argued the search was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment because it was not supported by probable cause. The Supreme Court rejected the defendants’ arguments.

The Court noted that stops and frisks are considerably less intrusive than full-blown arrests and searches. It also observed that the interests in crime prevention and in police safety require that the police have some leeway to act before full probable cause has developed. The Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement is sufficiently flexible to permit an officer to investigate the situation. The “sole justification” for a frisk, said the Court, is the “protection of the police officer and others nearby.” Because of this narrow scope, a frisk must be “reasonably designed to discover guns, knives, clubs, or other hidden instruments for the assault of the police officer.” As long as an officer has reasonable suspicion, a stop and frisk is constitutional under the Fourth Amendment. What is reasonable suspicion actually? A good example for this is a story about a youth named Alvin in Harlem NYC, on June 3rd 2011; the NYPD stopped and question him multiple times for looking suspicious while walking his own neighborhood. He was able to secretly able to record the audio, here is some of the recording after they placed his hands behind his head and frisked him.

Alvin: “What am I being arrested for.”
Officer: “For being a fucking mutt! You know that!?”
Alvin: “That’s a law being a mutt?!”
Sergeant: “Do you wanna go to jail?”
As the audio continued the sergeant even threatened to break his arm. (Dramatic pause)
This is where we ask what is our fourth amendment right exactly? Well from a source I found called the Legal dictionary it is said; The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Ultimately, these words endeavor to protect two fundamental liberty interests – the right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary invasions. [This information belongs to Legal-Definitions.com]

That brings us back to reasonable cause and probable cause. But if that’s true, if it’s just searching those who look suspicious then why does statistics show that the searches happen in impoverished neighborhoods to men of color especially young black males. I have had first-hand experience of instances like this when I lived on the south side of Chicago at age 16. I watched as the boys on my block age 11 and up would get stopped by the police while standing on or around their own block even on their own porches. But what was more astonishing then the random checks was how the boys were so use to it that they would not complain or make a scene. They would put their hands behind their heads and let the police check them without exchanging words from either of them.

But it is proclaimed that stopping people under what that particular officer thinks is reasonable suspicion is effective and brings down crime rate, when there’s no real evidence that it does make up the majority of crime going down and even if it does. Ask yourself this; should billions of citizens lose their rights, over a million deviants. We aren’t the ones that should be looked at as criminals because of what we might look like or where we live that’s racial profiling and discrimination. On August 12th 2013; even the New-York Judge Shira A. Scheindlin was against this act of violation towards the citizens’ rights. In her own words she described the police to be “Indirect racial profiling” since it increased the stops in minority communities. The judge found that the NYPD were too quick to deem suspicious behavior that was perfectly innocent.

In effect going around the legal standard for a stop. Furtive movement is another thing that officers use to Stop and Frisk. Furtive movement is when a person is either fidgety, changes direction, grabbing at pockets or looking over shoulders. Which Scheindlin wrote “If officers believe that the behavior described constitutes furtive movement that justifies a stop, then it is no surprise that stops so rarely produce evidence?” On October 31, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit blocked the order requiring changes to the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program and removed Judge Shira Scheindlin from the case. It is even found while 83 percent of the stops in 2012 were black and Hispanics, 90 percent of the people stopped are released with the officer not finding any basis for and summon or arrest.

NYPD conduct more than 1800 stop and frisk a day over the last decade. Police commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg defended and promoted the use. But let’s not point the blame on just the officers, testimonials from veteran NYPD and ones who want to keep their identity confidential have audio from their higher ups who threatens them (pause) with disciplinary action if they don’t meet a certain quota of stop and frisk. That is because in New York State Laws prohibits the use of quotas for arrest, summonses and stops by the NYPD. The NYPD is one of New York’s only agencies to operate without independent oversight, leaving officers no safe place to file complaints about police practices and systematic problems. A general inspector office to monitor policies and procedures has been proposed but not passed. I know I am talking about New York a lot in this discussion, but other states and their journalist aren’t talking about Stop and Frisk for some mysterious reasons even though it is very real everywhere in the United States and happens to people every day.

But I looked deeper for it and found out just recently they legalized stops in Seattle, Washington which was in effect on January 31st this year. During the settlement agreement their followed an investigation that found Seattle police officers routinely used excessive force, most often against people of color and the psychologically or chemically impaired. Not only does this happen in Seattle but Detroit our neighboring city state has a similar problem, in a statement from the Detroit Police Department Assistant Chief he say’s – “Based on reasonable suspicion, the Detroit Police Department is already a stop-and-frisk policing agency. Detroit’s population is mostly African American, so it stands to reason that a high number of African Americans will be stopped, based on reasonable suspicion. This is not racial profiling, just officers doing good constitutional police work.”

From the DPD’s statement he obviously is speaking on behalf of the department, but you have ask yourself is this the opinion of one city’s racial geographic of being predominantly African American or is this another attempt to adopt an out of state policy based off unproven statistics. What I want to know is why haven’t the news talked about this? Why wasn’t this broadcasted on our radio stations specially our more ethical ones. Theirs a veil that goes over this whole thing and to me it looks like a cover up for domination over a group of individuals that they feel have the highest crime rate when it comes to cultural and social structures of a city and a society. And if we don’t stand up for something we will fall for everything.

The Judge Shira Sheindlin article is public on the New-Times and also a source her secretary sent me Floyd V. City of New York If you want to learn more about the controversy over stop and frisk and Alvin’s story you can find the documentary on YouTube and google it’s called NYPD Outta control: Short Documentary. To learn more about the policy’s on the legalization of Stop and Frisk in other states you can go to: www.policeone.com

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