Stop-and-frisk Failed in NY, But Trump Wants to Use It In Chicago

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Protesters demonstrate against the NYPD’s “Stop And Frisk” policy. (Thomas Good)

President Donald Trump is a racist and he’s ignorant. And since he also has the powers of the United States government at his fingertips, that makes him a very dangerous individual. And this leads me to his latest bone-headed suggestion. Trump sees stop-and-frisk, a New York City policy that allowed police to detain and search individuals at random, as the solution to Chicago’s gun violence problem.

Like many Trump policies, this is a decision based on gut instinct. He thinks it’s going to succeed, but there is no basis for this. During a 2016 presidential debate, Trump said, “Rudy Giuliani did a great job as mayor and they really straightened things out with stop-and-frisk, and it was used further by the next mayor, Bloomberg, and now they, you know, recently — not so recently but fairly recently — they stopped it. But stop-and-frisk worked.”

There are two major lies in that statement. Firstly, Giuliani didn’t do a great job as mayor. His police force was known for committing human rights abuses against ethnic minorities. It got so bad that Human Rights Watch produced several damning reports against the NYPD. Giuliani’s reign was only saved by 9/11, which made him look heroic. According to a Washington Post article, although Giuliani claimed that his tactics led to a drop in crime, statistics show that crime rates fell nationally during the same period.

Secondly, stop-and-frisk did not work. The only thing it succeeded in doing is harassing black and Latino men. According to an extensive study of stop-and-frisk data by the New York ACLU, the program largely failed to discover crime.

In 2002, police stopped New Yorkers 7,296 times. However, 82 percent were innocent. The ACLU study also showed that stop-and-frisk did target black and Latino people. 2003 data showed that 54 percent of the people stopped were black and 31 percent were Latino.

Now people like Trump and FOX News alt-right poster boy Tucker Carlson would argue that’s because blacks and Latinos commit more crimes, but that’s a simplistic view. If you’re going to arrest Pookie for selling drugs, what about the people who buy his product? Aren’t they criminals too? Pookie sells drugs because there is a demand for the product. And if Pookie is carrying a gun, what about the supply chain that provided him the gun? This is one of the main problems in Chicago because while the city has strict anti-gun laws, the surrounding states don’t. Combine that with poverty, high unemployment and family breakdown and you have a recipe for disaster.

Another problem with the stop-and-frisk policy is that it lets many criminals go. Since it targeted blacks and Latinos, white criminals were largely ignored, even though they were more likely to be carrying drugs and guns. According to a 2013 report released by New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, white people who were stopped were more likely to be carrying illegal items.

The report stated, “The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded a weapon was half that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered a weapon in one out of every 49 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 71 stops of Latinos and 93 stops of African Americans to find a weapon.”

If the New York police really wanted to accurately target crime, they’d stop more white people, but we all know that’s not going to happen. Also, if you really wanted to crack down on drug use, police would set up checkpoints at colleges and start shaking down white coeds. But if that happened, I’m sure police commanders would get angry phone calls from college presidents and parents.

Normally, I would say Trump’s suggestion of restarting stop-and-frisk would generate eye rolls from his aides. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he wants to reactivate the disastrous War on Drugs.

“The War on Drugs has been an abject failure,” said former CIA officer John Kiriakou. “It specifically targets minority communities”

As President Barack Obama said, “Elections have consequences.”

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Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.

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