City officials may believe the New York Police Department’s controversial “stop and frisk” program works to keep crime levels down, but the implications encroach upon a person’s most basic rights as an American, writes a columnist in The Baltimore Sun.
The “stop and frisk” policies give officers the authority to question and frisk (or pat down) anyone they deem suspicious, without a warrant. They have long come under fire by civil rights groups and citizens who say police use the policy to unfairly target Blacks and Latinos.
In the column, published Sunday, writer Leonard Pitts Jr. uses the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against unreasonable search and seizures, as a basis for why all Americans should stand up against the practice. Pitts references a report from The Center for Constitutional Justice, a civil rights group, which found that of nearly 600,000 people who were frisked by police in 2009, drugs or weapons turned up in less than 2 percent of those stops. “That failure rate suggests at minimum a need to change the standard by which police decide whom to stop. ‘Suspicion’ obviously isn't cutting it,” Pitts writes.
Most recently, the case of Officer Michael Daragjati brought the contentious issue to a head. Daragjati was charged in October with making a false arrest of a Black man and later bragged to a friend that he had “fried another n-----”. In September, a federal judge ruled that a class action suit against the NYPD based on claims of racial discrimination would go to trial.
“Most of us are not black or Hispanic, most of us do not live in New York. But all of us have constitutional rights, so all of us have a stake in the drama playing out in our largest city,” Pitts writes. “The Fourth Amendment means what is happening there is wrong. Or it means nothing at all.”