The problems purportedly addressed by stop-and-frisk and mandatory minimums are of the government’s own making. Thus, if we got to the root, the “need” for these bad policies would disappear.
Stop-and-frisk is largely aimed at finding youths who are carrying guns and drugs. Mandatory minimums are directed at drug sellers. It’s not hard to see what is at the root: drug prohibition. When government declares (certain) drugs illegal, those drugs don’t disappear; instead they move to the black market, which tends to be dominated by people skilled in the use of violence. Because the trade is illegal and the courts are off-limits for dispute resolution, contracts and turf will be protected by force. Those who operate on the street will find it wise to be armed.
So, as a result of prohibition and its attendant violence-prone black market, in some parts of town a percentage of young men will likely be walking around with guns and drugs. Seeing this, politicians and law-enforcement bureaucrats turn to stop-and-frisk and mandatory minimum sentences. But the only real solution is to repeal prohibition. There’s no need for intrusive police tactics or prison terms.
In a free society, government has no business telling us what we can and can’t ingest or inject. Before drug prohibition, America had no drug problem. It’s prohibition that created the problem, just as alcohol prohibition gave America organized crime on a large scale. As we’ve seen, when government tries to ban drugs, it creates bigger problems by putting drugs in the streets and gangs in control.
Judge Shira Scheindlin’s opinion in Floyd v. City of New York could not have come as a surprise to anyone remotely knowledgeable about law, but her handling of the delicate intersection between law and politics was about as masterful as a judge can get
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There isn’t much more to say, or needed, to explain what was wrong with stop & frisk. It was never really a question, as the legal requirements for police to impair a citizen’s right to be left alone are no different when done to one person as a million. Each person, each stop and each frisk, involves a constitutional right that is either honored, ignored or overcome by law. This program never stood a chance, not because it was ineffective (or not effective enough to overcome its burden), but because it was flagrantly unconstitutional.
Done deal. Now what?
The remedy is where a far harder battle has to be fought, with a multipronged effort to end a program so deeply incorporated into the daily world of police and darker skinned New Yorkers. Before the decision, former ACLU and NYCLU executive directors Ira Glasser and Norman Seigel called for the court to appoint a monitor for the NYPD. And Judge Scheindlin did just that, appointing Peter Zimroth to the Big Guy chair.
Zimroth was a former prosecutor, both state and federal, and Corporation Counsel for the City of New York. For you poor unfortunates who have never had the pleasure of being New Yorkers, Corp Counsel is the Attorney General of the City, the lawyer appointed by the Mayor to run the City’s lawyers. This isn’t to say that Zimroth won’t be an honest broker in his monitor role, but that he’s not exactly a wild-eyed radical bent on bringing anarchy to the streets.
Then there is training, because the testimony before the court made it abundantly clear that not a single cop on the force had the slightest clue what “furtive movements” meant, or the constitutional limitations placed on the foot cop’s perceived unfettered authority to toss black teens at will. The forms will be changed from ticking meaningless boxes to writing in, by hand, meaningless rhetoric, though the taxpayers will have to foot the cost for number 2 pencils and training in the use of all 26 letters of the alphabet. The price of eraser futures have skyrocketed overnight.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Schiendlin ruled that the New York City Police Department’s use of “Stop and Frisk,” a policing tactic in which officers detain and search citizens on the street who are guilty of suspcious behavior, is unconstitutional as currently practiced. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, consider the tactic an unequivocal success, crediting it with bringing New York City’s rate of gun-carrying among teens to half the national average. Critics, who claimed victory after Monday’s ruling, contend the policy has led to wholesale stops of young black and Latino men, who endure public humiliation and frequent harassment based on nothing more than their skin color and their proximity to high-crime areas.
In Judge Schiendlin’s rulling in Floyd v. New York, she found that the NYPD violated the 4th Amendment (protection from unreasonable search and seizure) and 14th Amendment (equal protection under the law) rights of the plaintiffs.
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In some cases, the very act of being stopped and frisked changes the nature of the crime. During police stops, officers routinely order citizens to empty their pockets, sometimes bringing marijuana into plain view and triggering an arrest. Possession of marijuana in New York results in a $100 fine, but once it’s in plain view, it becomes a Class B misdemeanor, punishable with jail time.
End the fantasy war on drugs
Also see 3 Absurd Reasons for Banning Drugs.
Unfortunately, it seems that the future Aldous Huxley predicted in 1932, in Brave New World, is arriving early. Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. However, we do need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT), learn what Members of Congress pay in taxes, and prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading. Oh, and pay “public servants” what they are worth.