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Tania Woodward

ENG 102
Dr. Wynne
17 March 2017
Stop-and-Frisk Policy
The practice of stop-and-frisk has been implemented and used for years now,

especially in New York City. It is a practice of temporarily detaining, questioning, and

at times searching civilians on the street for weapons and other illegal action or

objects. Although this practice may seem beneficial to some, to others, especially

those of who it affects, this policy has often been questioned as whether it is a form

of indirect racial profiling. To determine this, three questions must be considered:

1. What was the purpose of the stop-and-frisk policy? What was it intended to

2. Why do some consider it racial profiling?
3. Why do some consider it unconstitutional?

The following review on literature will discuss the background and history of the

stop-and-frisk policy, the purpose for it, who it tends to affect more, and the issue

people have on this practice.

`What was the purpose of the stop-and-frisk policy? What was it intended

to do?

First being introduced in 1968, the term stop-and-frisk, or also known as the

Terry stop, came about based on the decision of the U.S Supreme Court in the case

of Terry v. Ohio case. This law allows, that if a police officer is suspicious of an

individual, he can detain the person and run his hands lightly over the suspect's

outer garments to determine if the person is carrying a concealed weapon. To

accommodate with the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, police can only
justify a stop based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Meaning, the

suspicion cannot be constructed on intuition or a gut feeling, but must be coupled

with observable facts. Stop-and-frisk is different from an arrest. When stopped, its

only a temporary interference with a persons liberty which can lead to a frisk. Now

during the frisk if any evidence is uncovered, then it could lead to an arrest.

The purpose of this law was to be an effort to prevent or catch a crime from

taking place before it can occur. Going back to the Terry v. Ohio case, when the

officer suspected Terry and gained reasonable suspicion, the officer then decided to

approach the men for questioning. Due to the nature of the behavior, the officer

decided to perform a quick search of the men before questioning, finding a

concealed weapon and Terry was charged with carrying such concealed weapon.

Due to this, the stop-and-frisk practice was created intending to be some sort of

way to conduct surveillance of suspicious people. Beginning in the 1990s, the use of

stop-and-frisk became a primary mechanism to combat low-level disorder and to

stem gun violence in New York City (Braman).

Why do some consider it racial profiling?

NYPDs stop-and-frisk practices has raised numerous concerns over racial

profiling, predominantly whether stop-and-frisk violates the Fourteenth Amendment

protection against racial and ethnic discrimination. But to say if stop-and-frisk leads

to racial profiling, you must understand what it is first. Racial profiling is the

discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for

suspicion of crime based on the individuals race, ethnicity, religion, or national

origin (American Civil Liberties Union). The reason many may connect racial

profiling to the stop-and-frisk practice is officers tend to stop mainly the minorities
of the community which are those of African American and Hispanic descent.

Statistics such as the one in Figure 1 are used for legalistic debates.

Figure 1

Throughout 2003 to 2009, Blacks and Latinos made up majority of persons

stopped. In other data conducted from actual stops occurred in 2010-2012, 85%

were either African-American or Hispanic, while under 10% were white and 7% were

listed as other (see Figure 2). Per the NYPD, more than half of the people stopped by

these police officers are considered minorities (New York Civil Liberties Union). While

many minorities claim, this stop-and-frisk policy is a new form of racial profiling.

Statistics have led stop-and-frisk to allegations of indirect racial profiling.

Why do some

consider it


Although the stop-and-frisk practice was never ruled unconstitutional, many

believed it should. Victims and those who oppose this practice believe it violates the

Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled in 2013 that

New York Citys stop-and-frisk program was carried out in a manner that violated

the U.S. Constitution (). She found the citys stop-and-frisk policy to be

unconstitutional since it unfairly targeted minorities. She then ordered

implementation of several measures aimed at stopping the prejudiced policy. Judge

Shira A. Scheindlin stated, that these stops have enacted a human toll for they are

demeaning and humiliating violating citizens human rights (Goldstein). U.S.

District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that city police violated the U.S.

Constitution in the way that it carried out its stop-and-frisk program, calling it a form

of racial profiling of young black and Hispanic men.

Another case that justified this practice to be unconstitutional was Floyd v.

The City of New York. This case challenged the New York Police Departments

practice of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop and frisks of New York City
residents. The ruling was held on August 12, 2013, following a nine-week trial in

which a federal judge found the New York City Police Department liable for a

pattern and practice of racial profiling and unconstitutional stops. (Center for

Constitutional Rights)

When it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the stop-and-frisk policy violates

New York citizens rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. As for

the Fourteenth Amendment, the policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of this

amendment since these practices are often racially discriminating. As the statistics

shown in Figures 1 and 2, stop-and-frisk I directed towards minorities causing it to

seem like a race problem and which leads people to feel this policy is



The practice of stop-and-frisk has a major impact in the communities in New

York City. This practice has and will always be a main controversial argument for the

citizens in New York City. Some may say since this practice has been implemented

crime rates have went down. But, others and even showing in statistics, this policy

is targeted towards young black, and Hispanic men. The purpose of this practice

was to keep the streets safe in these communities but since it does violate citizens

Fourth Amendment, its hard to say if this policy is beneficial or harmful. Until ruled

otherwise, this policy will remain and because that it important to educate people

the pros and cons of this policy and how it can affect them.

Braman, Donald. "Stop-and-Frisk Didn't Make New York Safer." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media

Company, 26 Mar. 2014. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.

Busby, John C. "Stop and Frisk." LII / Legal Information Institute. N.p., 17 Sept. 2009. Web.

19 Mar. 2017.

"Floyd, Et Al. v. City of New York, Et Al." Center for Constitutional Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 19

Mar. 2017.

Goldstein, Joseph. "Judge Rejects New Yorks Stop-and-Frisk Policy." The New York Times.

The New York Times, 12 Aug. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.

"Racial Profiling: Definition." American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.

"Sign In: Registered Users." Criminal Justice Policy Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.

"Stop & Frisk." Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. N.p., n.d. Web. 19

Mar. 2017.

"Stop-and-Frisk Data." New York Civil Liberties Union. N.p., 22 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Mar.


Sweeten, Gary. "What Works, What Doesn't, What's Constitutional?: The Problem With

Assessing an Unconstitutional Police Practice Sweeten Stop, Question, and Frisk

Practices." Criminology and Public Policy. Wiley-Blackwell, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.