January 27, 2013

NY Times treats illegal stop and frisk as just another bureaucratic problem

Sam Smith - It was about forty years ago that I found myself in a public debate with several high police officials in which I criticized DC's shift from street patrols to putting cops in cars, safely removed from what they were meant to be doing. The Washington Post crime reporter present turned to the man next to him and asked, "Who is that crazy guy?"

So I don't have any problem with the NY Times praising the city's police force for its emphasis on street policing. . . except for one huge thing.

Buried at the end of the long story, the Times finally takes up the enormous illegal practice of stop and frisk.

The conventional media, like the Times, has come to treat unconstitutional practices - whether they be by Bloomberg or Obama - as just another bureaucratic problem to be solved. They are not. They are another form of crime that needs to be halted. And far more serious than any of the 50,000 mostly minority pot arrests the NYC cops made in a recent year.

NBC, NYC, February 2012 -City police officers stopped and questioned 684,330 people on the street last year, a record since the NYPD began yearly tallies of the tactic in 2002 and a 14 percent increase over 2010.

It couldn't be determined how many people were patted down during the encounters, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Typically, half of the potential suspects who are stopped are frisked or searched.

Of those stopped last year, about 12 percent were arrested or received summonses. The rest were not charged.

Civil-rights advocates claim the practice unfairly targets innocent blacks and other people of color, and that many stops are made without proper cause.

One of the reasons the police get away with this sort of thing is because  of nice language that makes the event seem less than it is. "Stop and frisk" is actually a form of arrest since the people are being restrained and would be legally charged if  they tried to walk away. 

Legal Dictionary - An arrest may occur (1) by the touching or putting hands on the arrestee; (2) by any act that indicates an intention to take the arrestee into custody and that subjects the arrestee to the actual control and will of the person making the arrest; or (3) by the consent of the person to be arrested. There is no arrest where there is no restraint, and the restraint must be under real or pretended legal authority. However, the detention of a person need not be accompanied by formal words of arrest or a station house booking to constitute an arrest.

The test used to determine whether an arrest took place in a particular case is objective, and it turns on whether a reasonable person under these circumstances would believe he or she was restrained or free to go.

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