Bloomberg Likens the NYPD's 'Stop and Frisk' Program to Random DUI Checkpoints


This week, as Ed Krayewski noted yesterday, the New York Civil Liberties Union reported that as the number of "stop and frisk" encounters initiated by the NYPD grew from about 100,000 in Michael Bloomberg's first year as mayor to almost 700,000 last year, the share of stops yielding guns fell from 0.38 percent (one gun per 266 stops) to 0.033 percent (one gun per 3,000 stops). In a radio interview this morning, Bloomberg said that trend shows the program is working:

The number of guns that we've been finding has continued to go down, which says the program at this scale is doing a great job….The whole idea here, John, is not to catch people with guns; it's to prevent people from carrying guns. It's like a stop we have for driving while intoxicated. It would be great if everybody said, "Oh my goodness, I might get stopped so I'm not gonna drink and drive." That's great. That's what we want. That would be wonderful. And the fact that we're getting fewer guns says  the program is working. And the program will really have succeeded when we don't get any guns.

If police were finding guns more often, of course, that would also be counted as evidence of the program's success, so Bloomberg really can't lose with logic like this. Furthermore, he seems to have forgotten that, under the 1968 Supreme Court decision in Terry v. Ohio, police are supposedly stopping people based on "reasonable suspicion" that they are engaged in criminal activity, and the whole justification for frisking them is to protect officers and bystanders from hidden weapons. The reasonableness of New York cops' suspicions is open to question, since only 10 percent of last year's stops resulted in citations or arrests (including arrests for "public display" of marijuana, many of which were illegal). Although officers are supposed to frisk people only when there is "reasonable cause to believe that they might be armed," 56 percent of stops included pat-downs, which 98 percent of the time turned up no weapon of any kind. Now Bloomberg is suggesting that the stops, like the stops at sobriety checkpoints, are essentially random.

They are not really random, of course. As the NYCLU points out, they disproportionately involve blacks and Latinos:

In 70 out of 76 precincts, blacks and Latinos accounted for more than 50 percent of stops, and in 33 precincts they accounted for more than 90 percent of stops. In the 10 precincts with black and Latino populations of 14 percent or less (such as the 6th Precinct in Greenwich Village), black and Latino New Yorkers accounted for more than 70 percent of stops in six of those precincts.

Young black and Latino men were the targets of a hugely disproportionate number of stops. Though they account for only 4.7 percent of the city's population, black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops in 2011.

But Bloomberg's analogy to stops aimed at catching drunk drivers suggests that police have no real grounds—aside from race, age, and gender—to suspect these people are illegally armed or doing anything else criminal. The sobriety checkpoints upheld by the Supreme Court in 1990 involved suspicionless stops aimed at the special hazard posed by intoxicated drivers. The Court said police could briefly stop motorists and, if they noticed signs of intoxication, investigate further. It did not say police could randomly stop people to find illegal guns or detect crime in general. A decade later, in fact, the Court said "the general interest in crime control" could not justify such stops, which are considered "seizures" under the Fourth Amendment. As described by Bloomberg, the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program is justified not by individualized suspicion but by its general deterrent effect. It therefore appears to be unconstitutional under the relevant precedents.

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  1. Yeah, well, fuck NYC and Mike Bloomberg. These morons are getting what they want. Keep on votin’ in these “tough-on-crime”, “make-the-world-a-better-place” shitstains, New Yawkers!

    What a bunch of useless pricks. “First World Problems”, indeed.

    1. New Yorkers actually love this shit. Professional people in Manhattan never get hassled by it, and we all remember what it was like to live in David Dinkins’ NYC.

      NYers are quite comfortable with fascism, thankyouverymuch.

  2. Bloomberg Likens the NYPD’s ‘Stop and Frisk’ Program to Random DUI Checkpoints

    Well they are both Fourth Amendment violations, after all.

    1. That’s their ludicrous premise — they’re attempting to lend their fucked up stop-and-frisk program by likening it to random checkpoints, which are just as odious and unjustifiable.

      When’s Bloomberg going to just go away and never come back?

      1. *lend it legitimacy.

      2. He was supposed to after two terms, but got the term limit law changed. I seriously wonder if he won’t try to get a fourth…and then a fifth…and so on.

        1. The really, really sad thing is that NYC may keep reelecting him. It seems they WANT the asshole and his policies. How the hell do you change the sociopolitical landscape of a metropolis like that?

            1. I like Hicks better.

          1. If everybody in NYC came out and said they enjoyed Mike Bloomberg as mayor he would ban himself.

    2. That was my reaction as well. It’s a fair comparison because both should be considered gross violations of the 4th amendment.

  3. “It is difficult to maintain the illusion that we are interpreting a Constitution rather than inventing one, when we amend its provisions so breezily.”

    – Justice Antonin Scalia.

  4. Walking! = operating a 2 ton pile of steel


    1. Obviously these people are walking in order to avoid being stopped at a checkpoint. That’s probable cause.

      1. And “probable cause” sounds kind of like “Commerce Clause” so… passes constitutional muster! Book ’em, Danno!

    2. But teh firearms, sage!!!11!

      Why do you hate the brave Poe Lease Menz?


      2. “comment exceeded 5,000,000 character maximum length”

  5. “And the fact that we’re getting fewer guns says the program is working. And the program will really have succeeded when we don’t get any guns.”

    Your views intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  6. And the fact that we’re getting fewer guns says the program is working. And the program will really have succeeded when we don’t get any guns.

    But has it reduced violent crime? Bloomie is confusing means and ends.

    I mean, this is about the safety of your citizens, isn’t it Bloomie? Bloomie? This doesn’t have anything to do with your Jihad on guns, right? Or your attempt to create the Perfect Nanny State?

    Bloomie, Demolition Man is fiction. Not a documentary.

  7. I wonder how Bloomberg himself would react to a police officer “randomly” stopping & frisking him?

    Would that officer still be employed 24 hours later?

    1. Bloomberg himself probabably has a higher chance of carrying a gun than minorities now, statistcally speaking.

      A lot of minorities stopped and frisked -> a few guns = low percentage with guns.
      A few white, business -> a few guns = high percentage
      therefor – white, business class more likely to be a ‘danger’.

  8. If everyone in New York City would say they enjoyed Mike Bloomberg as Mayor he would resign and ban himself.

  9. Why hasn’t somebody hauled those cops into court (as defendants) by now?

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