Law enforcement in the United States has utilized the practice of stop and frisk since the landmark case of Terry v. Ohio in 1968 that formalized its usage. Many urban areas passed legislation that allowed their police departments to conduct operations that were governed by the new allowances created. In some jurisdictions, the practice became part of police procedures without formal laws through law enforcement discretion that is enjoyed in the operational environment.
Stop and frisk is a policy that allows police officers to stop an individual they deem to be suspicious of committing criminal activity, questioning them and possibly searching them for contraband and weapons. There are times when individuals can be detained depending on how the officers deem fit. Questions were raised on whether the practice went against the Fourth Amendment, which guaranteed a constitutional right to protect the country’s citizens from unlawful seizure and search by law enforcement. Here in our research by the original essay team you will find some detailed information.
Further arguments came up with how police officers used the practice all over the United States since it was associated with racial profiling. Some of the procedures involved in stop and frisk have brought about the systemic racism that has been used against black and Latino people. Police departments have been found to use the policies against non-white people mostly in public spaces, and the paper focuses on the ramifications that stop and frisk has had on racial profiling.
Stop and Frisk Judicial Antecedent
Police officers had used the stop and frisk measures for a long time before the legal parameters were set up in the Terry v. Ohio case. Before 1968, there were no established or tested legal validities to ensure that law enforcement officials did not abuse the practice. The Supreme Court would go against the belief held by the Fourth Amendment by declaring that stop and frisking was justified since the protections in the constitutions guaranteed its purview.
Part of the ruling explained that the amount of suspicion that an officer can have was lower than the high standards required before its implementation. The first attribute to be elucidated was the definition of stop and frisk, which was stated to not be on the same level as search and seizure. Such a premise allows it to be exempted from the traditional protections provided by the Fourth Amendment.
In the subsequent years, Americans have been forced to examine their rights, the effect that the stop and frisk procedures have on people of color, and the relationship that the police have with the communities that they serve. Several ramifications can be observed through a decision made many years ago, as the following sections of the paper will examine.
In the early years of the stop and frisk laws, the premises maintained were virtually unchallenged. Everything changed with social rights activism that has been seen in American society since the late 1990s. Current generations of people of color have recognized the racist attitudes that the provisions under stop and frisk allow for. The policies have poorly reflected on the daily experiences of Latino and black people mostly.
Even though the law has allowed the law enforcement officials to carry out the policies, other parameters have been discussed concerning its morality and implication towards racial tensions. For most people of color, stop and frisks are supported by a court decision. Still, they are morally wrong because any ‘rightness’ supporting stopping an individual who has not committed any crime is unfair. There is a widespread belief that a practice only supported by suspicion should not exist in modern society.
Understanding what the law states on police practices has been challenging for most people of color. This means that the racial implications that arise from stop and frisks are not well known by a large percentage of the population. Many believe that the practice is wrong because officers cannot stop and search them without probable cause. As already elucidated in a previous paragraph, officers can depart from probable cause and operate on a much lesser premise.
Black and Latino people have found themselves at the receiving end of these unknown factors. Officers stop someone when they suspect them of committing a crime that has already occurred or if they believe they are about to be involved in a crime. In some jurisdictions, such as Illinois, the only requirement is that the officers point out the facts that make the intrusions justifiable.
Laws on stop and frisk allow law enforcement to demand names, explanations as per questions asked, and the address of whoever has been stopped. Officers’ subjective opinions are given a massive leeway because the laws do not set boundaries on the reasonable cause to lead to the officer’s conclusions. There are dangers associated with relying on law enforcement subjective opinions because, as the following sections prove, it sometimes taps into individual and group biases. The result has been the opportunities availed to racially biased officers to abuse some portions of the population through the policies empowered by legislation.
Racial Ramifications and Police Bias through Stop and Frisk
Risks have been pointed out by activists on how innocent people would suffer because of the indignities associated with stops and frisks. With the standards being lowered, it was expected that black and Latino people would be on the receiving end of bias; and such suspicions have been justified through proof collected in subsequent years. Unfair treatment has been seen by people who live in inner cities, ghettos, and projects by eliminating the protections accorded by the Fourth Amendment.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is at hand to provide information that can be used to scrutinize the police practice. African Americans have a 78 percent likelihood to be stopped under the stop and frisk premises compared to white people. There is an inherent racial bias that officers have been observed to possess when it comes to people of color, especially black people, and it is not about the criminality levels associated.
A study in Detroit and Chicago is at hand to confirm that black people are more likely to be subjected to stop and frisk more than people of any other race.
“A study in Detroit and Chicago has shown that African Americans were more likely to be illegally frisked than whites, and that “observers in on-view encounters judged frisk necessary for the officer’s protection less often when Negroes than whites were searched.”
Other studies conducted by the Pew Research Center show how stop and frisk have been used in biased ways and that race continues to play a huge role. Considering the nation’s history, it is vital to understand why such concerns have been raised over time. The first police department in the United States was formed to hunt down runaway slaves, and afterward, they were structured to maintain law and order.
The same departments were used to enforce racist laws under the Jim Crow provisions through the following years. African Americans suffered the most because they were arrested for little to no justified reasons. Following the civil rights activism era, police departments were often used to frustrate the efforts of social activists through beatings, unwarranted arrests, and jailing. From the examples above, one can concur that law enforcement has a checkered racial bias and discriminative tendency that raises suspicions on how stop and searches have been and are still being used.
The 1950s and 1960s were racially charged; the same is the case in the past decade. Police violence continues to be rampant today, and concern is justified when it is stated that officers still harbor racist attitudes and sentiments. Stop and frisk policies allow officers to be unchecked because they can disguise their tendencies under the law and operate with unscrutinized bias.
In the 1968 ruling, the Supreme Court admitted a high percentage of racial bias and harassment that could occur in the coming days. Contradictory explanations persisted for many years and allowed for racial profiling in the subsequent days. The low levels of scrutiny were known to lead to discriminatory and biased policing. Still, they were not stopped by the courts because it was believed that they would lead to impediments to legitimate police practices.
A moral lens has been used to view the stop and search practices used. With the resultant tensions between people of color and law enforcement, society had been forced to examine what the allowances were supposed to be and the reality on the ground of what happens. Most police departments are charged with maintaining law and order through protecting lives and property and enforcing impartial law.
For this paper, opinions were sourced from classmates on police departments’ role in maintaining law and order. Most opinions leaned towards the functions mentioned in the paragraph above. From the reports that have emerged, however, on police brutality, there is cause for concern on how practices such as stop and frisk, if their usage continues, could lead to more cases of brutality and deaths. This means that the translations in society do not mirror the fundamental attributes within people’s lives.
People of color and their interactions with police officers show that the reality on the ground is that there has been a disconnect existing where white people think of police officers as protectors. In contrast, black people are viewed as oppressors. There is the belief that police departments are racially biased against Hispanic people and African Americans.
As they grew up, some observed that older family members were randomly stopped by police officers while walking down the street, minding their business. This mainly happened to the older males, and when they asked for explanations on why they were being stopped, the officers described that the person stopped fit the description of someone suspected to have committed a crime nearby. Some answers indicated that they were viewed as being suspicious.
Similar instances as the one described above continue to occur in the modern-day. Police officers develop particular attitudes and biases when being trained for the job and in the line of duty. There have been complaints filed and reported on in the mainstream media that the only reason some people of color, especially African Americans, are stopped is that they were “walking while black.”
Many do not realize that some of the experiences youthful people of color see while young transcend into adulthood. Such people develop resentment towards law enforcement because of the initial encounters they had at the time. Stop, and frisks have furthered the resentment attitude that African Americans have against the police officers. The associations with law enforcement continue to be negative, and the relationship between officers and the communities they serve in continues to deteriorate.
Relations with Community
From the bias built up from historical injustices, attitudes, and the current environment, the previous section has examined how police relations with society are affected. Stop, and frisks are responsible for the dislike and distrust towards law enforcement. In the following section, scrutiny will be done to determine why racial bias and stop and searches have become as loathed as they are by people of color.
Should the stop and frisk policies have been implemented in unbiased methods that allow for the impartial enforcement of the law, most of these challenges would not exist. For people of color, being stopped by police is a scary occurrence because it ends in threats of violence, the excessive force being used, and sometimes, fatalities. There are many times when routine stops and frisks have resulted in African Americans losing their lives.
For people of color, especially African Americans, stops and searches have become a part of their lives. Such resignation has damaged the relationship between the community and law enforcement. From a study in Chicago, it was detailed as follows;
“African Americans have resigned themselves to having to deal with stop-and-frisk in silence because as mainstream media has demonstrated, the risk of disobeying could result in police violence or even death.”
Considering that people of color are mostly stopped, it is clear that there is a racist undertone in implementing the policies. Legitimate questions are raised on what protocol is followed that determines who is a risk and who is not. The same applies to evaluating suspicious characters because activists are at hand to put forward questions on how people of color are more likely to be treated as suspects.
It becomes challenging for community policing to be carried out and a positive relationship to be maintained because of the negative racial attributes resulting from stops and searches. Black people have often described that their skin color has resulted in them being police targets compared to people of other races. This means they become fearful whenever they spot the police and become hyper vigilantes.
Analysis of the concerns examined in the paper shows that the stop and frisk policies are more likely to reach an oppositional objective from what it was alleged to do. It was initially designed to reduce crime, but the opposite effect has been achieved with racial bias and discrimination. People of color are less likely to call the police when they are in danger or if a crime happens in their vicinity.
The feeling is that even if the police responded to calls from people of color, they would display their racial bias instead of handling their reported problems. In the same breath, law enforcement’s job of maintaining law and order becomes tougher since it is more dangerous because of the increasing distrust by the community towards the police. Such sentiments have been expressed by many black community rappers such as Jay Z, J Cole, and Meek Mill.
Proponents of Stop and Frisk
Proponents of stop and frisk argue that crime rates dropped in the areas where it was implemented. An argument brought forward explains that even though police officers went too far with the tactics and practice, their effects on the community can be overlooked because of the reduced crime levels. Such an argument is valid in some quarters because there was a rise in violent criminal activities in the 1980s.
Voters became alarmed and demanded elected officials who initiated stop and frisk in some jurisdictions such as New York. Figures indicate a 4.8 per a population of 100,000 rises in homicide rates after the drug epidemics hit New York. The numbers peaked at 31 per 100,000 by the 1990s, and most instances were related to firearms. Though the numbers are different in many other cities in the United States, the issues were similar Police departments were restructured to accommodate foot patrols. Thus, stop and frisk became a standard routine to contain crime in hotspot areas.
When there was a crime decrease in the coming years, proponents argued that the policies were successful. However, it is crucial to note that despite the previous success experienced, the time has proven that stop and frisk was not an exemplary implementation. With crime levels being reduced, the attention of voters has turned elsewhere. The practice is now denounced as racist and unjustified with activism because a majority no longer supports it.
The role of stop and frisk must be acknowledged, as per proponents of the policy. No research has come forward to claim that there could be any other reason for the reduced crime rates apart from the implemented practice. Arguments can, however, be brought forward that many jurisdictions found better methods to combat crime, and thus stops and searches were discarded as the primary method being used.
The public attitude demonstrates what statistics already support; there is a disproportionate impact on minority people by the stop and search policies. Racial bias should be eliminated from stop and frisks because most encounters that people of color have with law enforcement are not favorable. For anti-police attitudes to be addressed, such premises must be changed for better implementations.
The first step that can be implemented to ensure that stop and frisk policies serve should be revising legislation that put them in place. This is to set new parameters that limit abuse by officers and can set a mark by which bias can be determined when police officers stop and frisk an individual. To ensure that the new statutes are adhered to, there have to be oversight bodies within police departments to monitor how the practices are used within the community.
Data must be gathered, recorded, and released from the stops and frisks to the public. First of all, this will allow for transparency and oversight from the community on policing matters. Secondly, all officers can be evaluated to determine those with high probabilities of being racially biased when implementing stop and frisks. At the same time, the community will feel much safer because they can trust and hold the police accountable.
Stop and frisk allow police officers to stop individuals they deem suspicious of committing criminal activity, questioning them and possibly searching them for contraband and weapons. Law enforcement in the United States has utilized the practice of stop and frisk since the landmark case of Terry v. Ohio in 1968 that formalized its usage. The paper above focuses on the ramifications of stop and frisk on racial profiling, plus the counterarguments that proponents of the policy bring into the discussion. Recommendations are given on how stop and frisk can be best used in policing and community trust development.
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