Stop and Frisk: How the Right Learned to Love Gun Control

If any other program had a 98 percent failure rate, conservatives would hold it up as a shining example of everything that’s wrong with big government.

Conservatives took a break last week from their sensible skepticism toward big government in order to embrace the liberal logic of gun control. That logic is familiar to anyone who has ever spent much time kibitzing the gun debate, and it goes like this: Government should infringe, or even abrogate, the rights of millions of law-abiding people in order to stop a minuscule fraction who use guns to commit mayhem.

Whether gun-control laws actually produce the desired results is a matter of great dispute. But liberals will happily cherry-pick the data that best make their case. (Why should they be any different?) They will then argue as The New York Times did in 2010, when it denounced a Supreme Court ruling upholding gun rights: “The arguments that led to Monday’s decision,” the newspaper intoned, “were infuriatingly abstract, but the results will be all too real and bloody.”

Translation: Don’t give us any of that airy nonsense about rights. People’s lives are on the line here. This, in essence, was how conservatives reacted last week when a federal judge said New York’s stop-and-frisk tactics were unconstitutional.

Stop-and-frisk was “a policy that has saved thousands of black lives,” wrote noted civil-rights icon Ann Coulter. The Wall Street Journal agreed: “If the judge’s ruling isn’t overturned, the victims won’t be in the tony precincts [but] in the barrios and housing projects.” Channeling The Times, Daniel Henninger of The Journal griped that “when liberals weigh the reality of physical threat . . . against hyper-abstract interpretations of constitutional rights, abstraction wins.”

According to National Review, “intelligent police work” had “reversed what seemed 20 years ago to be an inescapable descent into lawlessness, indecency, and chaos.” Writing in City Journal, Heather Mac Donald concurred: “New York’s 20-year reprieve from debilitating violence may well be over.” She fretted the ruling could “signal the end of the freedom from fear that New York’s most vulnerable residents have enjoyed.” In Commentary, Seth Mandel depicted stop-and-frisk as a “fight to keep the city’s minority neighborhoods safe.”

And, sure, that might be the intent. But then you can claim all sorts of policies will keep a city safe, including a total ban on firearms and surprise house-to-house searches for drugs. If the ends justify the means, then you can do just about anything you want. Conservatives usually like to think they’re a little more high-minded than that.

The other trouble with such consequentialist rationales is that they depend on producing the right consequences. So naturally, conservatives simply assume stop-and-frisk deserves the lion’s share of the credit for New York’s falling crime rate. But crime has fallen steeply across the country – including in many places that did not employ stop-and-frisk.

What’s more, conservatives seem to have forgotten their own prior explanation for the Big Apple’s progress: the broken-windows theory. That theory, popularized by the late James Q. Wilson, posited that tolerating minor crime such as turnstile-jumping and vandalism created an atmosphere major crime found inviting. To discourage major crime, therefore, crack down on petty crime. You can read volumes on how “James Q. Wilson’s thinking about crime and policing saved lives and transformed cities for the better” in the City Journal article “Man of Reason” (by Heather Mac Donald) – and several others just like it.

Mac Donald now defends stop-and-frisk by pointing out blacks and Hispanics are the primary perpetrators of violent crime in New York – so it only stands to reason that they should be the primary targets of stopping and frisking. This epitomizes the racial-profiling fallacy you also see in the debate over Muslims and terrorism.

It’s undeniably true that Muslims have committed most of the terrorist attacks against the U.S. in the past couple of decades. But this does not justify viewing all Muslims with suspicion, because while there have been only a handful of attacks, there are something like 1.6 billion Muslims. The odds that any one of them is a terrorist is, therefore, vanishingly small. (Not surprisingly, the same NYPD that carries out stop-and-frisk got into hot water a couple years ago for infiltrating mosques and other Islamic institutions.)

By the same token, just because most perpetrators in New York are black or Hispanic does not mean most blacks or Hispanics are perpetrators. After all, most homicides are committed with guns – but that does not mean most gun owners commit homicide.

The NYPD’s defenders also contend the police did not stop and frisk minorities at random; they stopped those who acted suspiciously. This is true only if you consider perfectly normal behavior suspicious. Judge Shira Scheindlin found, for instance, that (as a news account put it) “officers sometimes stopped people on the grounds that the officer observed a bulge in the person’s pocket; often it turned out that the bulge was caused not by a gun but by a wallet.” Other causes for suspicion: “being fidgety” and “walking in a certain way.” That sounds ironclad, doesn’t it?

In fact, stop-and-frisk is not a tremendous success but a tremendous failure, because such stops turn up contraband only 2 percent of the time. In other words: 98 times out of 100 the officer’s suspicion is unjustified.

If any other program had a 98 percent failure rate, conservatives would hold it up as a shining example of everything that’s wrong with big government. That they’re so eager to defend a failing program when it happens to target minorities makes their professed concern for “the most vulnerable” ring a trifle hollow.

This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  • Doctor Whom||

    Conservatives took a break last week from their pretense of sensible skepticism toward big government in order to embrace the liberal logic of gun control.

    FTFY. Also, gotta love the conservative concern-trolling.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Assholes like Coulter and the WSJ ediderpial board might like SnF but in the conservatives comments sections of a lot of these articles are definitely not so thrilled. There's still the LAW N'ORDER folks but they are greatly outnumbered by people who care about the Constitution.

  • John||

    Yeah. I see a few conservative politicians and writers who love this shit. But outside of that, I am not seeing it.

    Beyond that, conservatives are supposed to be law and order types. So this is unsurprising even if it is true. The more interesting question is how did liberals end up supporting it.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Which liberals ended up supporting it?

  • SugarFree||

    All the ones who votes for Giuliani and Bloomburg multiple times?

    It's not like SnF was some shadow operation. They crowed about it through multiple opportunities to vote them out of office.

    Even now, Quinn is defending it and still leading in the polls.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I think Quinn can be counted as a liberal, but not Guiliani. And in the context of NYC politics not Bloomberg.

  • SugarFree||

    They still must have had huge numbers of self-professed liberals voting for them to win. You don't become the mayor of NYC if the left votes against you as a block.

    Bloomburg is in no way a conservative and Giuliani was a little too comfortable in drag.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Bloomberg is as conservative as you get while being competitive in NYC elections. Compared to other parts of the country he would be considered liberal, but not in NYC.

    He is a Guliani-Chris Christie Northeastern Republican type. The man hosted the 2004 Republican Convention after all.

  • SugarFree||

    And yet liberals voted him in time and again. Liberals let him get rid of his own term limit, like Chavez.

    They say one thing and yet vote another. Curious.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Well, liberals have a habit of doing that in many areas, certainly.

    Remember Bloomberg won his most recent election with a bare majority of the votes in the city, and only four points ahead of the Democratic candidate (who was seen as the more liberal of the two, no?).

    Did he get the votes of a lot of people who are left of center compared to the overall American center? Of course. But he did not get many of the more liberal voters of NYC.

  • KDN||

    He is a Guliani-Chris Christie Northeastern Republican type.

    Incorrect, he's a Clintonite Democrat that switched parties so he could run for Mayor unopposed (not that the local party was mad about this). He dropped the flag as soon as he was re-elected and ostensibly term-limited (though he later got around that).

  • R C Dean||

    Bloomberg is as conservative as you get while being competitive in NYC elections.

    So? He's still a liberal by any definition that doesn't stop at the Hudson River.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    So was Strom Thurmond, but no-one calls *him* a liberal.

    Kidding!

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Also, where is Quinn defending it? I've read she applauded the court decision.

  • SugarFree||

    Quinn wants to change it and give it more oversight, but she doesn't call for ending it. So she's on the "it's only bad because it's racist" side of the argument.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Well, that is hardly defending it.

  • SugarFree||

    Because oversight has cleaned up the practices of the NYPD over and over again.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I hear you and am no big fan of Quinn, but applauding the decision against the program and promising to take steps to implement the ruling (and to fight efforts to prevent it) is again hardly 'defending' it. Defending it is what Bloomberg is doing.

  • Paul.||

    Well, that is hardly defending it.

    It's saying, "If you SnF whitey as much as you SnF darkie, I'm good with it."

    Not a pure defense, but it's a position which has no issue with SnF per se.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I am not sure how it is saying that. She applauded the Court decision, and the decision was that it not only violated Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection doctrine because of the racial imbalance in who got searched, but Fourth Amendment search and seizure law as well.

  • R C Dean||

    Well, that is hardly defending it.

    Its defending it in principle, not as (racistly) applied.

  • Paul.||

    And in the context of NYC politics not Bloomberg.

    Who are all these NY City republicans voting for Bloomberg and Giuliani? Again, and again... and again. Who knew NYC, (Hillary Clinton's home state) was so conservative?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    NYC is not Hillary Clinton's home state, on that I think we can be certain. NYC is a city.

    Most voters in NYC are to the left of the average American voter, and certainly in winning mayoral races there Guliani and Bloomberg won many of those votes. But that doesn't mean he won the votes of the more liberal voters in NYC. I think the vast majority of them voted for Thompson.

  • Paul.||

    NYC is not Hillary Clinton's home state, on that I think we can be certain. NYC is a city.

    It is now and New Yorkers voted for her.

    I understand NYC isn't a state, I just threw the parenthetical in there to give a shout out to Hillary's success as a NY state Senator.

    I'm no expert on NY state politics (vis a vis Hillary's success), but if it's anything like my state, the major population center's votes drive state elections. Meaning, I suspect NYC residents (the same ones who vote for Bloomberg) also voted for Hillary.

    And just to throw one more anecdote in there, I'm no republican, but I know few republicans that would endorse really anything that Nanny Bloomberg does. Most of what Bloomie does is parroted by liberal health boosters. You know that.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    In 2004 I knew very many Republicans who endorsed a lot of what Bloomberg said and did. Northeastern ones still prefer him over the Democratic alternative.

    Again, I do not doubt that most NYC voters voted for Clinton over Lazio and Spencer. That does not mean that the 50% of voters Bloomberg got in his last election was composed of the more liberal voters of NYC.

  • Paul.||

    In 2004 I knew very many Republicans who endorsed a lot of what Bloomberg said and did. Northeastern ones still prefer him over the Democratic alternative.

    I don't doubt that at all. At all.

    The problem we have here is one of labeling.

    Northeast Repubs are famous for believing in shit like "organizing society". You know who else wants to "organize society"?

    You may even be "technically" correct that Northeast Republicans are responsible for Bloomies success. But those of us old enough to have lived through both Reagan administrations know what a Northeast Republican really is.

    Check out a book called Up From Conservatism. It's northeast republicanism in a nutshell.

  • ||

    Northeast Repubs are famous for believing in shit like "organizing society". You know who else wants to "organize society"?

    Let's just not forget that Bloomberg has only even been a Republican for like five minutes in the scheme of things. He had a D next to his name until that became inconvenient for acting as Giuliani's chosen successor.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    He was a registered Democrat for many years but he never ran for office as one.

    I think he enthusiastically embraced his role as a Northeaster Republican for a while there, especially in the wake of 9-11 and the GOP Convention in 04. When Bush became more unpopular he dropped the R, but notice he did not pick up the D as the more 'hardcore' Democrats did not like him.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I guess what I am saying is that Northeastern Republicans are not so out of step with conservatism in general. Conservatism, current rhetoric aside, is not about smaller, less intrusive government. That is what libertarianism is about. Conservatism is about conserving traditions, and they are fine with the state actively helping that project.

    In a place like Alabama or Arizona conservatism is going to oppose regulations on tobacco use, guns or fried foods because those are traditionally enjoyed there. But of course things that are outside of that tradition, they warrant aggressive government (marijuana, abortion or immigrants for example). In the Northeast, especially in the cities, powerful 'boards of health' and gun control and such have been around for a long time, so conservatives there are not upset by them.

  • ||

    Yeah, I agree, I'm just saying even looking at Bloomberg in terms of "Northeastern Republicans are like moderate Democrats elsewhere" is silly, because he was famously and openly a Democrat until recently, and only switched parties for tactical reasons. The real thing to learn from this is that big cities don't really have multiple political parties, not the same way that we even have two nationally. I mean here in Chicago, all that matters is the D primary. And believe me, the D primary really does decide things--it is contested. I would look up some of Bryan Caplan's writing about one-party cities and city-states, he has done some stuff on major cities in the US and compared it to Singapore, but I don't have time right now. It's interesting.

  • Paul.||

    Conservatism is about conserving traditions,

    I too want to hold up (bring back) the tradition of smaller government, a government that governs less... creating a space with no power within it.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Sure, but remember the tradition in big Northeastern cities is a more active government than is traditional in other regions of the nation, hence Northeastern urban conservatives often do not have a problem with it.

    Do not forget that when Bloomberg and Guliani ran against Democrats such as Thompson and Dinkins, the former were offering the (comparatively) smaller (though to be fair in some ways just 'different') vision of government!

  • anon||

    Who are all these NY City republicans voting for Bloomberg and Giuliani?

    Team Red offered bigger government.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Don't underestimate how much Dinkins ruined the Democratic brand in NYC. Fair or not (and much of it was fair in my recollection) by the end he had disgusted nearly everyone.

  • Paul.||

    Team Red offered bigger government.

    And gun control, and trans fats bans, and soda bans, and the total-healthcare state. Yeah, Bloomie's total Red Meat all the way.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Northeastern conservatives rarely have a problem with gun control. Guliani was fine with it. Christie is fine with it. Romney was fine with it.

  • Paul.||

    Northeastern conservatives rarely have a problem with gun control. Guliani was fine with it. Christie is fine with it. Romney was fine with it.

    Yes, and those of us old enough to remember have another word for Northeast blue-blood Republicans...

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Liberals live in Manhattan and the Bronx. The other boroughs - Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island are much more working class and more likely to be conservative. Now, any unionized public employee, while working class, will still vote demo - 'cause the benefits.

    And, the only reason Giuliani was elected the first time was because he ran against David Dinkins - a horrible, horrible mayor by any standard.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Dinkins was the head of the serpent, but the entire Democratic machine in the city had finally become what most out of towners had seen for a long time: a cesspool not only of corruption but numbing mediocrity. And they were arrogant in their mediocrity: some of the candidates they ran were so unappealing it was not funny, but they ran them anyway because they were machine darlings. To be frank the NYC Democratic machine is still like that. And so they cannot win the mayoral race in a city with so many Democrats.

  • Robert||

    The Liberal Party did nominate Giuliani for mayor twice.

  • John||

    New York is one of the most liberal cities in the country. And SF has never been an issue there. The upper east side liberals love this policy.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Are you kidding? Liberal activists, like the ones that brought the successful lawsuit, have fought it for a long time in court, the media and such.

  • SugarFree||

    The on-going support for SnF in NYC is a prime example of stated vs. revealed preferences. The liberal activists had to go to court because they weren't beating the LINOs at the ballot box.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I think you are right to say that there are more voters in NYC that would be to the left of the overall American political center, but that doesn't mean that someone like Bloomberg or Guliani won with the votes of the more liberal New Yorkers.

    Both Guliani and Bloomberg chiefly ran against Democrats in their races and were widely recognized as the more 'conservative' choice by New Yorkers. Sure, the 'more conservative' choice in NYC would be a moderate to liberal Democrat outside of the Northeast, but that does not make them the liberals of NYC.

  • Robert||

    But the funny thing is that Giuliani was reviled at the grass roots of the Conservative Party. He won on the votes of moderates.

  • ||

    John is correct. There are a number of unsavory things that go on in NYC that have the tacit approval, or at least total unconcern, of a large part of the population. Stop & Frisk is one of them. Another is, where are the homeless? Where are the street bums and beggars? No one cares, because for the most part, they aren't there. But that's because the NYPD makes sure they aren't.

    If you are a white, at least moderately wealthy Manhattanite, you will never be Stop-and-Frisked.

    Most people in NYC are as myopic and concerned mostly with their own lives as people are everywhere else.

  • John||

    I have spent any number of weekends in New York and walked nearly all of Manhattan. I have never once had a cop do anything but be nice to me.

    The rich Manhattanites remember the Dinkins years and quietly are just fine with the NYPD being a gestapo.

  • shamalam||

    Implicit in your comment, John, is acknowledgment that SnF works.

    I am not criticizing you here. It is a conundrum. Would New York city be a low crime city without SnF, or would it be the shithole it used to be? That is a scary question to be forced to answer.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I agree that a city with a majority of self professed liberals supported Guliani's anti-crime efforts, which included cracking down on the homeless. In fact, this was his selling point. He agreed to not make waves on most other issues important to liberals, but he advocated aggressive policies to fight crime in the city. Crime had come to be a major frustration to city residents and Democratic politicians like Dinkins seemed impotent or complacent about it.

    But the stronger liberal types in NYC hated Guliani, and protested his police tactics rather frequently and loudly.

  • ||

    Another is, where are the homeless? Where are the street bums and beggars? No one cares, because for the most part, they aren't there.

    This, a million times. You did have some real lefties make noise about this stuff during Giuliani's term, but his war on the Brooklyn Museum was definitely a bigger flashpoint in the "liberals of NYC vs. Giuliani" war, to the extent there was one.

  • Paul.||

    Wow, you kidz are young. Everyone knows Bill Clinton cured homelessness.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    No, he just paid of the national debt and had negative unemployment. And he smells like cookies.

    At least he was pragmatic enough with a Republican Congress to hold him in check on spending.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I do not recall it like that. There were pretty frequent and intense protests, lawsuits and the like over Guliani's anti-crime tactics.

    It should be noted too that like many cities NYC had some rather valid issues with some activities by homeless people. Panhandling had become very 'aggressive,' and at times led to either threatening situations or outright muggings. Littering by some of them was terrible. Gusts of wind would catch their trash and swirl it around you. Even liberals have their breaking point where quality of life outweighs ideology and sentiment. So while there was some protesting when Guliani cracked down on the homeless (and to be clear some of what he did is not defensible in my opinion), many did went along or applauded. But these were rarely the most liberal types.

  • ||

    Yes, because NYC was a leader in KULTUR WAR distraction politics. Instead of fighting over substantive issues, the battles became over idiotic niche issues and the underlying "parties" behaved basically the same otherwise.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Yes, symbolism and New York go together all too well.

    It is amazing the city has not gone Detroit's route.

  • Paul.||

    It is amazing the city has not gone Detroit's route.

    Some argue it was in the 70s. Some point to things like SnF as the reason it hasn't.

  • ||

    There's way too much money floating around NYC for it to devolve into the 3rd world shithole that is Detroit.

  • R C Dean||

    It is amazing the city has not gone Detroit's route.

    If Detroit was the financial capital of the planet, it wouldn't have gone Detroit's route.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Bingo. Hard not to have money stick to your sweaty palms when you stick them in the torrent flowing by every day.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Liberals in NYC love the law and order shit. When you think about NYC, you need to think about class division more than race or ideological division. Liberal in the NE and NYC in particular are very into class identity. The talk compassion and charitable giving, but the live in a world were they have very little interaction with or consideration for poor people, and that's the way the want it. Basically, the limo-liberal thing is very true. Poor people are conceptually deserving of compassion, but literally - not so much.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Do or did you live in NYC? If you did you had to see, hear or read about activists holding rallies, marches, press conferences and filing lawsuits criticizing Guliani (and later Bloomberg's) 'Gestapo' law and order tactics.

    Are you under the impression those people were conservatives?

    Mind you I do not dispute what you are saying about the rather shallow and often faux sentiment over the poor many liberals have, but the more liberal types in the city hated Guliani and are not now big fans of Bloomberg.

  • Paul.||

    Amy Goodman did a segment on her show railing against Obama policies. Amy Goodman is no conservative. Yet, what percentage of mainstream Democrats voted for Obama, twice?

    Just because you see a rally and a march, that doesn't speak for the voters that voted these people in...with votes.

    There are plenty of mainstream liberals who have zero problem with SnF.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I will try to put this one last time. As Lady Bertrum says above there are a fair amount of non liberal voters in NYC, especially in certain boroughs. Among the ones that are liberal however there are varying degrees of how liberal they are and even claim to be. Think of a continuum running from barely liberal to very strongly liberal.

    What I am saying is that of course Bloomberg and Guliani got votes from that group. But the further you go on that continuum toward the strongly liberal, those people tended to hate Guliani and later Bloomberg. The further you move away from that group, the support for Guliani and Bloomberg, and their 'tough, no nonsense' anti-crime programs runs higher.

    This is why it was liberal activist groups, not conservative ones, that brought all the lawsuits against the program, including the one that recently won, and why of pundits the vast majority of those defending the program are on the right.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    You're splitting meaningless hairs. You'll be a great lawyer.

    While more progressive types may have protested SnF, some of that animus was due to Guliani and Bloomberg playing for Team Red.

    Democrats in NYC, who greatly out number Republicans, support SnF, and we know this because they keep electing politicians who enforce it.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    -Democrats in NYC, who greatly out number Republicans, support SnF, and we know this because they keep electing politicians who enforce it.

    That is a terrible argument. First of all, I will say again that while, yes, some liberals must have voted for Guliani and Bloomberg the more liberal of NYC's voters opposed them (do you seriously dispute this?). Second, even for those who did vote for them, we cannot know how these policies weighed in making that vote. Some likely never even thought about the issue or even knew about it. Some may have disliked the policy but disliked something about their opponents even more.

  • ||

    Jesus fucking christ dude. Is it really that important to you that your ideological compatriots didn't accidentally support the wrong team? New York City is manifestly more Democratic than Republican, and more "liberal" than "conservative", when the terms are defined typical of modern American political parlance (historically, liberal meant something very different indeed). That means that at least a bare majority of Democrats and "liberals" at least tacitly supported Stop and Frisk as a policy by failing to support the candidates... and here's the important part... from within their own party and/or their own ideological community, who opposed that policy. You need to learn the difference between "some", or "many" or "a majority" and "all" - they are not synonymous terms. That there was a vocal group of "liberals" who opposed Stop and Frisk (and more because of its consequences than on principle, I would add), doesn't mean that many, very probably even a majority of "liberals" opposed it.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Hmmm. Do or did YOU live in NYC?

    I lived in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens for 10 years and still own property there.

    I'd just reinforce what others have said. To get elected in NYC, which has significantly more registered dems than repubs, a candidate must get dem votes. While "liberal" activists may have demonstrated against Guliani and Bloomberg, a significant number of avowed liberal had to have voted for them.

    And, let's just acknowledge that "conservative" and "liberal" have very different meanings in NYC than they do in other regions.

    Many blue-collar dems can be called conservative. Most of those folks have now left NYC with the middle-class exodus, though.

  • ||

    "Which liberals ended up supporting it?" Far too many.

  • Paul.||

    It's 'cause people like Coulter et al see SnF as fighting terror.

  • Hyperion||

    This assumes that all Republicans are on the right. Most of them are statists just like the Dems, only their rhetoric is different. Their goals are very much the same, shift more power to the state and away from the people.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    She fretted the ruling could “signal the end of the freedom from fear

    Now is that all fear? Only rational fear? Or only irrational fear?

    So far, all I've seen from the supporters of stop and frisk is irrational fear. They are consumed by the terror that someone, somewhere, at some time, might do something wrong. That cannot be tolerated. Therefore, liberty and rights must be quashed until the irrational parties can "feel" safe.

  • ||

    Anytime someone declares freedom from something in modern America, grab your wallet, grab your gun, and lawyer up, because your money or your rights are about to be skullfucked. The only thing you should be free from is violence, fraud, coercion, or abuse - chiefly by the government itself.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    I wouldn't call the program a failure. Police states by their nature tend to keep people safe from a violent crime by other citizens. That said you can go to a stop and talk system otherwise known as community policing that would keep crime down without the blatant violation of the 4th that stop, question and frisk does.

  • sarcasmic||

    In Saddam's Iraq people were quite safe from violent crime by other citizens.

    Granted you couldn't take walk through the park at night without having to stop and show your papers the police at checkpoint after checkpoint, but you were safe.

  • John||

    The argument is that the program is unconstitutional, not that it doesn't work. If it is illegal, who cares if it works?

  • Paul.||

    Granted you couldn't take walk through the park at night without having to stop and show your papers the police at checkpoint after checkpoint

    How is this different from here?

  • sarcasmic||

    Depends on where "here" is. My town doesn't even have a police force. The troopers and sheriffs setup occasional speed traps and respond to calls, but otherwise we're left alone.

  • Paul.||

    This doesn't compute. Deregulashun! Who's organizing your society?!

  • sarcasmic||

    noted civil-rights icon Ann Coulter

    Er, uh, um...?

  • John||

    To follow up on what Dr. Frankenstein says above. I object to this program because I feel it is unconstitutional. So the effectiveness of it is irrelevant to me. That said, this statement

    In fact, stop-and-frisk is not a tremendous success but a tremendous failure, because such stops turn up contraband only 2 percent of the time. In other words: 98 times out of 100 the officer’s suspicion is unjustified.

    is a pretty sad argument. The effectiveness is measured by the reduction in crime not the raw numbers of successful stops. If those 2% result in a real drop in crime, then the program is effective. That doesn't make the program right or even legal. But just because it only finds something 2% of the time doesn't mean it isn't effective. It may be quite effective depending on who the 2% they arrest are.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Well, it indicates a lot more hassling of people than catching criminals. It also means 98% of the time the police were not only hassling someone innocent, they were wasting their time.

  • John||

    Sure it does. That may make it inefficient. But it doesn't make it ineffective. And efficiency is a relative term. It might be the only effective method available meaning it is also the most efficient. It all depends.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    -That may make it inefficient. But it doesn't make it ineffective.

    Well put, I think you are correct and concede that point.

  • ||

    Efficiency is generally thought of as an important component in effectiveness, unless you live in a resource-unlimited utopia. If it took 7,999,999 cops in NYC to police the population of 8 million, policing would undoubtedly be "effective" measured purely in terms of stopping crime, but so ridiculously inefficient that no rational person would consider the program a success - least of all the poor sap left paying for the whole thing (to say nothing of the potential for abuse and violation of individual rights).

    That's obviously a reductio ad absurdum, but really, it's the logical conclusion of that type of thinking. Defining "effectiveness" so narrowly is a meaningless abstraction.

  • Paul.||

    If I set up armed checkpoints around your neighborhood, and the first week I have a 75% 'catch' rate in finding contraband, illegal stuff, warrants etc., then in the next week that drops to 30%, and in the week after that, it drops to 5%, you could, by logic, claim the program is a 'success' at the new 5% rate.

    People are scared. They're hiding their shit. No longer carrying weapons/drugs/contraband.

    It's a success. It's a fucking tyranny of the highest order, but it achieved its goal.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's effective because people who fear that they will be stopped and frisked tend to leave their piece at home.

  • John||

    Yes. But I doubt they stop being criminals.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    This is pretty much where I was going. I find the argument that stop and frisk is ineffective to be intellectually dishonest. I'm sure it does keep the weapons off the street and you're more likely to pick up the guys with outstanding warrants.

    I'm also sure it violates basic liberties and the effectiveness argument irrelevant.

  • R C Dean||

    The effectiveness is measured by the reduction in crime not the raw numbers of successful stops.

    Well, that assumes that the stops contributed to the drop in crime.

    If 0% of stops resulted in contraband, would anyone say it contributed? I don't see how. So I have a hard time seeing how 2% of successful stops contributed any meaningful increment to the drop in crime.

    And note: those are "contraband discovered" "successes". I doubt that includes a lot of habitual violent criminals, which is who you need off the streets to reduce crime rates.

  • ||

    "Contraband" in this case consisting of many items that shouldn't be illegal in the first place. Like drugs or an 8 round magazine.

  • np||

    “officers sometimes stopped people on the grounds that the officer observed a bulge in the person’s pocket

    ... I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere..

  • sarcasmic||

    I've been stopped for not tucking in my shirt. The officer claimed that I could be hiding a gun in my waistband. This was twenty years ago in Boulder Colorado, which isn't exactly a crime-ridden city.

  • CatoTheElder||

    So the Boulder PD literally had fashion police!

  • Doctor Whom||

    Heh.

    "I'm Officer Sandi Griffin, and you're under arrest for ...."

  • WTF||

    Something about the officer being happy to see him?

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Very nice column.

  • SugarFree||

    I want to nominate Eric Posner as one of the worst people in the world. I'm not sure if he even has the faintest grasp of what the Bill of Rights is for.

    And he does the epic dunphy shitbag trick of trying to say stop and frisk is merely a brief questioning of the subject. He's either a liar, an idiot or a lying idiot. Probably all of the above.

  • MasterDarque||

    This is like the classic Julie Brown song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xG3yGdQYwqg
    Just change the title to "Everybody run these crazed and drugged up Niggas have got a gun"

  • Robert||

    Gun control in the USA assumed its current "left-right" alignment only in the 1960s. And in most of the world its politics don't align that way even now. So what's the big surprise if there's an example like this, where the issue doesn't align that way?

  • Robert||

    The logic of stop & frisk is that "we all know" who the criminals are, but just don't have enough solid evidence for legal process. This is a very prevalent belief. You can hear people saying, "Why don't they just go after the criminals?", assuming the authorities know who "the criminals" are and are either restrained from doing their jobs or are paid off not to do them. Some of these people even think they know certain individuals to be criminals. This is practically childish naivety, but widely shared.

    Probably not entirely naivety. There's a reluctance to think that people you know and don't think are criminals, maybe have a very good relationship with, could actually be criminals. People "just like us". The worst of it is that if they are just like you, some day you too could be a criminal. So it may be better to believe criminals are different in some tell-tale way. And yet you always get those news interviews with the friends & neighbors of the mass murderer, saying he was perfectly normal, usually a "quiet" type; curious, that.

  • darlajtyson||

    as Samuel explained I am in shock that people able to earn $8373 in a few weeks on the computer. did you read this web page --------- w­w­w.w­o­r­k­2­5.c­o­m

  • Robert||

    If anybody's stioll reading this, something I forgot yesterday: Last month I met some Raging Grannies (about as "left" as you'll get) at a party in NYC, and 2 out of 3 of them (they brought it up, not me) liked stop & frisk, while the other thought it'd be OK if it didn't entail profiling.

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