Potter: NYC should reform stop-and-frisk policy, eliminate racial profiling

Five New York Police Department unions filed to block the settlement of New York City’s stop-and-frisk lawsuit, according to a Feb. 7 Huffington Post article.

Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ordered a broad reform of this policy, including federal supervision, due to its unconstitutionality.

Judge Scheindlin’s ruling accepted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s settlement and discontinued the appeal process.  The NYPD is strongly opposed to this settlement.

The controversial stop-and-frisk policy is effective in taking guns off the streets, but it unfairly targets minorities. Crime control is extremely important, but it is unacceptable that the policy jeopardizes basic rights and uses racial profiling.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, in 2012, 55 percent of New Yorkers stopped were black, 32 percent were Latino and only 10 percent were white.

If a high percentage of those stopped and frisked by NYPD were found guilty of a crime, these statistics would be justified. However, 89 percent of those stopped were completely innocent.

It is painfully obvious that a vast majority of these stops were not based on reasonable suspicion, but rather discrimination and racial profiling.

Racial profiling does not add to the effectiveness of the policy. Although it is mostly minorities being stopped, whites are twice as likely to be found with a weapon, according to the Huffington Post article.

Despite its faults, stop-and-frisk has successfully reduced the number of guns and other weapons on New York City streets. According to NYPD representative Paul Browne, 70,000 to 80,000 weapons have been taken off the streets in the past decade as a direct result of stop-and-frisk.

This undoubtedly increases the safety of New York’s streets, but at the cost of invasive personal rights violations for minorities.

The NYPD has one thing right — it is necessary to have means to seize weapons off the city’s streets. However, stop-and-frisk should be reformed to reduce racially biased stops or replaced by a non-discriminatory policy.

When law enforcement is discriminatory and unjust, it leads to a lack of trust between law enforcement officers and struggling communities.

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, 88 percent of residents in areas where stop-and-frisk occurs frequently do not believe that the residents of their neighborhood trust the police. In order to effectively control crime and help residents, the police must be viewed as a trusted and respectable authority.

Mayor de Blasio and Judge Scheindlin are correct in attempting to reform the policy. However, these reforms may not go far enough to remove racial biases and underlying problems in the legislation.

It is imperative that there is no ambiguous language written in the legislation that allows police officers to racially profile citizens when executing the policy. The reforms should work toward creating a positive and less invasive relationship between citizens and law enforcement.

Any policy, despite its effectiveness and necessity, must entirely abide by the rights of citizens outlined in the Constitution. These rights must apply equally to all citizens regardless of race.

Once we start accepting questionable policies, even those that appear to be effective, we are opening the floodgates for more constitutional and discriminatory violations. Our history is filled with racial discrimination and inequality that must be continuously overcome.

Stop-and-frisk is a step backward in terms of racial equality in the United States and the reform or replacement of this policy is essential. The filings on behalf of the NYPD unions should not prevent de Blasio’s comprehensive reform of stop-and-frisk.

Rachel Potter is a junior political science and sociology major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at



  • Bostonway

    Typical liberal ‘no-solution’ make it worse dogma. Crime prevention and solution is all about profiling. Many blacks are glad to have the extra scrutiny. Why? Because crime has gone done considerably! Do you hear that?! Further, who is doing the VAST majority of crimes in black neighborhoods? White women? Older Asia guys? Of course not. Black males between 15 and 25. Period. So, who should the cops be targeting and stopping most? Duh. The common-sense rule stands… “If you are doing nothing wrong (i.e., not carrying drugs, gun, etc), you have little to worry about!” And libs PLEASE don’t bark the few examples where this was not the case.

  • Marc K

    Rachel you are aware the majority of black on black crime occurs in black neighborhoods. You think that might give the false impression that everyone being stopped is due to their skin color? i’m really at a point of giving knee jerk liberals everything they ask for. As soon as the police stop this program crime in these neighborhoods will go through the roof. Great news. At that point we’ll hear from liberals like you that the police don’t care about crime in those neighbors and the police are racists. Can’t win with liberals that see every problem as color related and someones else’s responsibility.

  • “Knee-jerking Liberal”

    So racism and profiling is completely fine in law enforcement?? Sounds like a step in the wrong direction. I agree this program cuts down on crime but it clearly violates basic human rights. Provisions need to be made to clear up the language and make this a program that doesn’t allow for any unreasonable and unlawful searches.

  • Bostonway

    I didn’t say ‘completely fine’ (as in no-cause at all for searching someone). BUT profiling works and is necessary to deal with crime. Example? Three people were seen leaving the area where a violent gun crime was committed… a Nordic-looking man in his 60’s, a Asian girl around 13-14, and a black teenager 15-18 years old. Statistically speaking, who is by far most likely to have committed the crime? However, based on the no-profile folks, the cops must look for and search all three (types) in the population equally. Just crazy logic, plus a waste of time and money. By the way, some civil rights nut-jobs don’t even want police ABP’s mentioning the race of a suspect!

  • Bostonway

    Marc, well said. When crime goes up again, the same libs and minorities will start barking that they demand more money, more programs, and more cops… we are under-served! By the way, many common-sense blacks in the ‘hoods where crime has dropped considerably (directly because of more aggressive-search) are saying… ‘don’t change a thing!’

  • “Knee-jerking Liberal”

    So, if profiling works so well then why were 89% of the people in NYC who were stopped and frisked completely innocent? Also, in your example, yes, profiling may work, but many of the times stop and frisk has been utilized it has proved the opposite. I’m not saying this program should be taken away (it has proven to be effective), but instead reformed to abide by our constitutional rights. And the right to search someone based off their race and neighborhood that they’re from violates those rights.

    I would also love to see some sources backing your claim of “common-sense blacks” (whatever that means) saying they don’t want anything changed.

  • Marc K

    Well its pretty ironic that a knee jerking liberal is concerned with constitutional rights, theres a first. I’ve yet to hear of any grandmothers or black moms with baby strollers stopped in this program. I don’t like innocent people being stopped for no reason either, but come on. As soon as gang bangers start shooting up the black neighborhood, the cops will be hung out to dry again. Reformed? To the point where it’s no longer effective. Why do you and Rachel want more innocent black people to die? So Chicago is doing a great job at preserving basic human rights in the black community by having 500 murders a year. Most black on black crime. Not being killed by a gang member is a basic human right – isn’t it.

  • “Knee-jerking Liberal”

    Being involved in violent gang activity or other crime would constitute probable cause. Stopping and frisking these individuals would not only be effective as a method of crime reduction but not be based on racial profiling and would not violate constitutional rights. Under no circumstances should race be used as a probable cause to frisk someone. Just because you’re a black person in a black neighborhood doesn’t grant a good enough reason to be unreasonably searched.

    If this policy was properly executed innocent people could be protected without having their rights violated. Marc, you have a very two sided perspective, but this situation is multidimensional. People can be targeted based off probable cause and not off race or appearance.

    Also, in no way am I saying more innocent black people should be murdered. Both protection for innocent people and personal rights can be achieved if this policy is effectively reformed.

  • Bostonway

    NYT recent poll… 48% of all NYC adults agree with Stop and Frisk (poll majority), including 35% of blacks (high %) and 48% of Hispanics (poll majority). Let’s see your 89% number backed up. By the way, ‘completely innocent’ OR just not caught at the time. Hmmm.

  • Bostonway

    So, a crime prevention practice that actually works should be stopped or cut back considerably. Is it an inconvenience for those stopped? Yes. Do more black teens get stopped? Yes and for good reason (simply look at the stats). However, most folks NOT involved with crime want strong measures in place to reduce it (NYT poll). By the way, if you are innocent, you have little to worry about. Finally, what you are missing is… by having more aggressive search practices, it PREVENTS others from even risking the carrying of illegal guns, drugs, etc.

  • Bostonway

    Again, good common-sense points Marc. I get so tired of the barking; ‘protect everyones civil rights at all costs!’ as dirt-bags continue to commit violent crimes (break ins, drug pushing, rapes, murders) time after time. By the way, I do wonder if any of the crazy civil rights / ACLU types are willing to have their family members hike around the bad-neighborhood streets in NY on a warm summer night? I’m sure not! What? That’s profiling!

  • “Knee-jerking Liberal”

    Could you post a link to this NYT poll? I would be interested in checking it out. Also, the 89% number comes from this article….

  • “Knee-jerking Liberal”

    A statistic doesn’t justify taking away someone’s personal rights. I agree, if you’re innocent you don’t have anything to worry about, but it I can imagine it would be quite embarrassing to be unjustly stopped and frisked on the street.

    I’m also not saying this policy should be stopped or significantly cut back so that its not effective. I’m saying that it should respect people’s rights and shouldn’t promote racial profiling. Its not ethical to target someone based off their skin color just because some statistic supports it.

  • Bostonway

    Taking away rights! I have to get checked at the airport, prove my age to by wine, get my bag checked entering a FB game, etc, etc. Tons of things we must individually do for a safer society where I’ve done nothing wrong! Not promote racial profiling! Should cops pursue Swedish grandmothers and black teens equally for a street crime if both are in the area? Of course not. Profiling is needed to solve crimes effectively… talk to most any cop. Wake up.

  • “Knee-jerking Liberal”

    Boston way? Sounds more like the communist way! Take away our rights?! Is that a joke? Might as well throw out the constitution while you’re at. Seriously, this is the 21st century. Racial profiling is not an acceptable means to persecute people of different races and ethnicities. Agree to disagree but you seriously need a lesson in human rights.

  • Marc K

    Tell me why your name is knee jerk liberal as you defend the constitution and put down communism. Odd. If you’re in a high crime neighborhood that is primarily black, it’s not racial profiling to stop people in that neighborhood. The chances are you are stopping an overwhelming amount of black people. duh. If you’re in a primarily white neighborhood and stopping only blacks, thats totally different. Like I said earlier, stop the program or make cops waste time stopping 1,000’s of white grandmothers to bring up the numbers for the ACLU. The black neighborhoods in NY will soon look like Chicago. Give liberals what they want – they never ever worry about the consequences.

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