Stop and Frisk

Is the NYPD's 'Stop and Frisk' Program Effective? Does It Matter?


In my column today, I note that President Obama, judging from his high praise for New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, does not seem troubled by the racially disproportionate impact of the NYPD's "stop and frisk" program. Kelly defends the program partly by arguing that blacks and Hispanics are its primary beneficiaries as well as its primary targets. Writing at's blog, Dave Borden points out that even policing sincerely aimed at stopping violent crime in poor neighborhoods can end up generating arrests for trivial offenses such as marijuana possession, perpetuating the racially skewed results of drug law enforcement. That is in fact what seems to have happened in New York, as I mention in my column. Borden also questions Kelly's claim that stop-and-frisk tactics are effective, noting that University of California at Berkeley criminologist Franklin Zimring, author of the 2001 book The City That Became Safe: New York's Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control, believes the value of "aggressive arrests and stops" is "not known." Zimring is more inclined to credit factors such as increased manpower and CompStat mapping of crime "hot spots."

The debate about the effectiveness of New York's stop-and-frisk program is interesting, but it should not be dispositive. For that matter, the demograpic profile of the people who are usually hassled by the cops, while it certainly should bother anyone who claims to be concerned about racial profiling or the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection, is not the most decisive argument against stop and frisk, which is the Fourth Amendment. As Mike Riggs noted yesterday, Kelly seems to think everyone detained by the cops must be guilty of something. "The notion anyone stopped has done absolutely nothing wrong is not really the case," he said on MSNBC's Morning Joe, because police "need reasonable suspicion to stop someone and question them." Kelly not only confuses reasonable suspicion with guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; he assumes his cops really do have a sound legal basis for every stop they make and every pat-down they perform. That assumption is hard to credit, given that stops result in an arrest or summons only 12 percent of the time and pat-downs almost never discover guns. If the stop-and-frisk program is unconstitutional, as it appears to be, its putative effectiveness does not make it less so.  

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  1. It effectively fills the quotas.

  2. It was effective in juicing the NYPD’s stats.

    So, yeah, it was effective in achieving its intended purpose.

    1. If that finger weren’t so sneaky, you wouldn’t have gotten beaten!

      1. My sneakiness didn’t beat him, his lawyer-based verbosity slowed him down.

  3. What would be more effective is if we build hundreds of panopticons all over the country and confined everyone for life. We would all be safe and crime would be zero.

  4. Glad that Obama endorses this sort of profiling.

  5. You know what else might be effective at reducing crime? Just randomly shoot people or lock them up permanently. People would be too terrified to step out of line then.

    1. Quit giving them ideas.

      Oh wait, nevermind, too late.

    2. If I’m gonna get shot randomly, might as well make it worth my while in the meantime.

  6. The more conspiratorially-minded racialists, bitterly hostile to immigration, sometimes speculate that there is a diabolical plot by our ruling power structure to “race-replace” America’s traditional white population. Perhaps a hidden motive along these lines does indeed help explain some support for heavy immigration, but I suspect that the race being targeted for replacement is not the white one.

    That’s from Ron Unz. There is some meat and potatoes information in this article.…..#more-4525

    And I notice, for now, it wasn’t published anywhere but on Ron Unz’s own domain.

  7. lol, Welcome to the NEw Regime!

  8. Isn’t it interesting that at the same time that crime has gone down in the US that there has also been a spread of reform of marijuana laws in the form of decriminalization and medical use across the country.
    Prohibitionists of course will say that this is just coincidence but they told us that drug availability would lead to increased crime. Obviously it is decriminalization that has lead to lower crime rates across the US.

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