Guest Opinion: Stop and frisk's time has passed

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Oct. 7
Stock image

We’d like to hear more specificity from Republican Donald Trump about his advocacy of “stop and frisk.”

Trump appears to be under the impression that communities like Ferguson remain in a virtual state of war. He stated last week that race riots are occurring in America, on average, once a month. His stated solution, as president, would be to impose stop and frisk as the policing policy across the country. He cites the experience of New York as his basis for expanding the program.

The New York Civil Liberties Union reports that, since 2002, New York police have targeted more than 4 million people for stops, searches and interrogations as a way of addressing petty street crimes and getting guns off the street. Police were empowered to stop anyone, with or without cause, and conduct searches for contraband.

The practice was a blatant civil rights violation. Nine out of 10 searches victimized entirely innocent people who were just exercising their right to go from one place to another. New York police singled out minorities 90 percent of the time. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that stop-and-search practices, without cause, violated the Constitution.

The New York Times reports that the stop-and-frisk era praised as successful by Trump actually ended in 2011, a year when there were 515 homicides in the city. Trump asserted in the Sept. 26 debate that crime went up after stop-and-frisk ended. In fact, it dropped. Homicides are down 32 percent. When Democrat Hillary Clinton tried to correct his mischaracterizations of the aftermath when stop and frisk ended, his response was to chant, repeatedly, “Wrong.”

Trump’s experience with street life is his ever-so-brief encounter with a public sidewalk between leaving a skyscraper lobby and jumping into a limousine. The chances of him being exposed to a police stop-and-frisk encounter are zero. He has no idea whatsoever the kinds of resentment and humiliation that such encounters inflict on innocent people. He has no idea what it’s like to be singled out for search merely for being dressed in a hoodie or just for being black or Hispanic.

Trump seems blind to the harm this program can create within torn communities like Ferguson, where police are working overtime to restore cooperative relations and rebuild trust. National stop and frisk would have disastrous consequences.

Trump’s blithe, elitist embrace of this program ignores the harsh reality experienced by thousands whose only “crime” was to walk, talk or stand in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s another example of his tone-deafness to the limousine-deprived masses who live in the real world.