Posts Tagged ‘Stop and Frisk’

The decline of ‘stop and frisk’ in NYC

September 23, 2014

Capture

I’ve written posts about the injustice (and also the uselessness) of singling out young black men for police harassment, often leading to arrests for trivial or arbitrary reasons.   So I’m pleased to read a report in the New York Times, illustrated by many fine graphics such as the one above, that this practice is on the decline.

Of course there can be reasonable grounds why a police officer might regard someone as a suspicious character.  But those grounds should consist of more than being young, black and scruffy-looking.

The decline in stop-and-frisk has NOT resulted in a rise in crime.   Violent crime continues to decline in New York City, as it does almost everywhere else in the United States.   The chart below is based on national figures.

Capture2

LINKS

‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Is All But Gone From New York by Mike Bostock and Ford Fessenden for the New York Times.

Crime isn’t up by Peter Moskos for Cop in the Hood.  (And a hat tip to Moskos for the New York Times link)

[Added 10/2/14]  Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned on a promise to end stop-and-frisk in New York City.  He deserves credit for a promise kept.

The incentives to ignore due process of law

August 12, 2014

Matt Taibbi said he started researching his new book, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, in order to discover the solution to a mystery:

Why is it that, during the past 30 or so years in the United States, poverty went up, crime went down and the prison population doubled?

What his book reveals is that the rising number of arrests and jail sentences are responses not to crime, but to political and financial incentives.

The primary job of police in New York City (and no doubt other places) no longer is to respond to reports of crime.  Their job is to maximize arrests.  They have arrest quotas.

us-incarceration-and-crime-ratesThey go around looking for people to arrest.  Taibbi reported a woman going home from work who was charged with soliciting for prostitution because she allegedly makes eye contact with undercover police in a van.  He reported two young black men arrested on suspicion of being drug dealers because they were in an expensive car.

He told how police vans cruise poor, majority-black or majority-Hispanic neighborhoods, arresting people more or less at random.  Some turn out to have outstanding warrants.   Some turn out to have drugs [1] or weapons in their possession.  But many are innocent of anything that any reasonable person would regard as a crime.

Rather than admit a mistake and let them go, police often charge the others with loitering or obstructing traffic (which can consist of standing on a street corner) or failing to obey the lawful order of a police officer (which can consist of talking back or being too slow to obey).

They’re held overnight, and, if they can’t post bail—and many are too poor to post a small amount of bail—they’re kept in jail for trail.  Prosecutors ask for a guilty plea in return for a sentence limited to time served.  Which sounds like a good deal at that point, but then they have permanent criminal records.

Although there are quotas for making arrests, there are no penalties for false arrests, according to Taibbi.  Even if the City of New York is successfully sued for false arrest, the police officer who makes the arrest is not penalized, and may not even know about the lawsuit.

The more the rate of serious crime—killing, assault, rape, theft—goes down, the more effort New York police have to devote to finding reasons to arrest other reasons to arrest people.

The system of stop-and-frisk and mass arrests can only work because most people caught up in it waive their constitutional right to a fair trial.   If they ever stopped doing this, the system would grind to a halt, and police and prosecutors would have to focus on serious crime.

[Note 9/22/14.  This may be out of date so far as New York City is concerned.]

[Note 10/10/14.  Or maybe not.] 

(more…)