President Donald Trump said at a police conference on Monday that Chicago should implement a “stop-and-frisk” law to help cut down on crime.
“The crime spree has a terrible blight on that city, and we will do everything possible to get it done,” Trump said at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention in Florida, according to ABC. “It works and it was meant for problems like Chicago. It was meant for it. Stop and frisk.”
But just what is the law — and why do some see it as racist?
And why do others see it as just being tough on crime?
What is stop-and-frisk?
Stop-and-frisk describes a divisive policy in New York City that allowed officers to stop anyone they believed “committed, is committing, or is about to commit a felony or a Penal Law misdemeanor” if they have a “reasonable suspicion,” The Washington Post wrote.
Some other states have adopted “stop and identify” laws that require people who are detained by police to identify themselves if an officer has reasonable suspicion that they were involved in a crime.
But the law in New York City, first implemented in 1999, gained nationwide attention — and Trump hailed the city as proof that the policy can cut down on crime.
“Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York City had a very strong program of ‘stop and frisk,’ and it went from an unacceptably dangerous city to one of the safest cities in the country,” Trump said Monday, according to ABC. “And I think the safest big city in the country. So it works.”
In New York City, more than 500,000 people were stopped each year from 2008 to 2012 — with more than 5 million stopped since 2002, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
So, did it work in New York City?
It depends on whom you ask, and what you define as “work.”
Supporters of the law will tell you that the stop-and-frisk policy can help take guns off the streets. As reported by Forbes, the New York Police Department said the policy led to the recovery of 770 guns in 2011 alone. That meant a gun was found 1.9 percent of the time during a stop.
And the following year, 715 guns were found in New York City because of the policy, according to FiveThirtyEight. As noted by the outlet, data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that 18 percent of all guns seized in 2012 in New York City were found during a stop-and-frisk session.
Data also show violent crimes and murders decreased along with the implementation of stop-and-frisk in New York City, according to The Washington Post.
Critics point out that the rate of crime and murder remained level even after a federal judge ruled the city’s specific stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional in 2013, according to The Washington Post.
But Heather Mac Donald, a political commentator, argued in The Wall Street Journal that “proactive policing” under the law led to a decrease of murders by nearly 80 percent.
What are the critiques of stop-and-frisk?
Many point to apparent racial profiling in who gets stopped.
In 2011, for example, 685,724 people were stop-and-frisked, according to data from the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Of those people, 88 percent were found to be innocent. Overall, just 9 percent of those stopped were white, while 53 percent were black and 34 were Hispanic. The 2010 census reported that 33 percent of New York City residents are white, while 26 percent are black and another 26 percent are Hispanic.
Black people make up a majority of those stopped for every year there is data, while white people barely make up 10 percent of those stopped on average. In a report, Jeffrey Fagan, from Columbia Law School, examined police data on stop-and-frisk and found that race has a “marginal influence” on who gets stopped — even when accounting for “the social and economic characteristics” of the area.
Fagan also said there is little evidence that the policy helped prevent crime or reduce murders.
“Anyone who says we know this is bringing the crime rate down is really making it up,” Fagan told The Washington Post in an interview.
Why was New York City’s stop-and-frisk law ruled unconstitutional?
For the same reason as Fagan’s concerns.
Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in 2013 that the law violated the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens, and that the practice was “racially discriminatory” because of the disproportionate numbers of people of color stopped by police because of it, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights.
After her ruling, the number of police stops of people of color dropped to 18,449 in 2015 — even though that number was just more than 160,000 in 2013, according to The New York Civil Liberties Union.
“This is a 96 percent decrease from the height in 2011 of more than 600,000 stops,” Scheindlin wrote in the National Black Law Journal in 2016. “And what has happened with crime statistics in the meantime? They have remained steady!
“The enormous decrease in stops has clearly not caused an upsurge in crime despite alarmist predictions by our former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley,” she continued.