Friday, August 30, 2013

The Stop and Frisk Debate in NYC

The leading Democratic mayoral candidates in New York City are falling all over each other about who will be tougher in eliminating the police’s controversial “stop and frisk” program. However, some of the rhetoric doesn’t make a lot of sense. Let’s examine this policy and see what we can learn for both NYC and other cities where crime is high.

Before doing so, let me interject the reason a religious blog is talking about this subject. The bottom line is that the City of New York is trying to reduce crime in general, and violent crime in particular. It is trying to save lives. Every life is precious in the Judeo-Christian tradition, so it is appropriate that we, as a society, try to not only preserve life but to enable people to live up to their potential. With that in mind, let’s examine “stop and frisk.”

“Stop and frisk” is vulnerable to abuse, and should be used only when someone looks suspicious, is acting suspicious, or matches the description of someone the police are looking for. The police must assume everybody is innocent until proven guilty, meaning they should be polite and respectful when stopping someone on the street.

The police should take a photograph or video of the person they are considering stopping, if there is time. This allows others to see what the police observed in the event of a formal complaint or an audit.

The racial profiling argument against “stop and frisk” is misleading. If the police are patrolling in a mostly black neighborhood, they are going to stop mostly African-Americans. That’s not racial profiling – it’s simply the population they are dealing with.

Too many people, including children and other innocent bystanders, are being shot and killed high-crime neighborhoods. While being stopped by the police is not pleasant and is even humiliating, maybe that’s the price that needs to be paid for now to reduce violent crime – at least until a better program comes along.

According to the crime statistics, “stop and frisk” has been successful in lowering violent crime in NYC. That means fewer violent deaths of black men, and as mentioned above, every life is precious. Eventually, police, knowing there are fewer guns out there, will feel less threatened and will be less prone to shoot as well.

Certainly oversight of the program should be strengthened but why eliminate a program that is saving lives?

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