The New York City Police Department has engaged in “Stop and Frisk” street crime prevention program that has been in effect for a decade. An average of 600,000 people have been stopped and frisked every year. Over 80% of the people stopped have been young black and Latino men. Less than 10% of these stops have resulted in arrests and less than 5% have resulted in convictions. Incredibly, there are many people who think that this is a good program.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, supported by the Fourteenth Amendment, prevents unreasonable search and seizure by any governmental entity, including the police. When almost a half million young men of color are stopped and frisked on suspicion of some vague notion of criminality, there would seem to be serious question about the constitutionality of such a program. The questions are more acute when it is statistically clear that the wholesale criminalization of a generation of young black and Latino men is not preventing or suppressing crime.
Right now, in a federal court in New York City, the constitutionality of the Stop and Frisk program is being challenged. Witnesses have come forward on behalf of the class action recounting the repeated humiliation, degradation and sheer terror that accompanies the Stop and Frisk program. Racial slurs, epithets, random violence and threats of violence are the unspoken accessories to this random ransacking of the Constitution.
Despite the fact that no other major city in a democratic country on the planet utilizes this awful police procedure, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly vigorously defend it. That is not surprising considering that they are the policy birth parents of this monstrosity.
What is surprising is that most of the mayoral candidates either support the Stop and Frisk program or suggest that it should exist with modifications. Considering the fact that the black and Latino population of New York City is approaching 50% it is an amazing position for a political candidate to take.
Essentially they are saying to black and Latino voters is, “stripping you and your children of their constitutional rights and degrading you and your children in the name of crime prevention is a good thing and you should vote for me”. Other supporters of stop and frisk “with modifications” also point to the need to prevent crime as the unassailable reason for continuing to violate the personhood of so many people.
Presumably, if every black and Latino young man in New York City was arrested the crime rate would plummet. If they were all imprisoned, according this way of thinking, New York would be the first crime free city in the history of world civilization.
Predictably, most of the mayoral candidates who support stop and frisk are white. Indeed, most of the most vocal supporters of stop and frisk are white. Most of these men and women (and their sons) have never been on the business end of a police stop and even if they were the odds are that they were treated with a level of dignity and respect rarely seen by black and Latino young men.
Even more interesting are the black and Latino public figures that support stop and frisk “with modifications”. The fact is that even if a person is stopped and frisked and is not cursed at or threatened with a beat down, even if that person is not thrown against a wall or subjected to racial epithets, they are still being stopped and frisked without probable cause. That black and Latino public figures would be complicit in degradation and humiliation “with modifications” is disturbing and distressing.
Black or white or Latino, it would seem that the supporters of stop and frisk either believe that only guilty people get stopped – but the statistics overwhelmingly show that this is not true. The alternative is that these apologists for illegality somehow believe that degradation and humiliation “with modifications” is a price that some people have to pay so that crime can be reduced.
The question has to be asked of these advocates of constitutional dilution – what price would be too high?