Public Administration: NYPD’s Stop, Question and Frisk Policy

782 words | 3 page(s)

The case of Terry v. Ohio was a case that took place in 1968 concerning the fourth amendment rights of someone who is detained by police for a pat down and questioning. The case set the standard that police must have a reasonably articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot before detaining a person for the purposes of a stop and frisk and questioning. Throughout the years after Terry, there have been a number of cases that have helped to clarify what constitutes a reasonably articulable suspicion and how stop and frisks are applied by police departments. In the city of New York in recent years, there has been public outcry as well as cases filed concerning the police department’s application of the stop and frisk. Throughout this paper, I will present several arguments for the NYPD’s application of the Terry stop and frisk as well as describe how different sources of information concerning the subject can aid and hinder research on the subject matter.

NYPD’s Stop, Question, and Frisk
There have been a number of claims raise in recent years about the discriminatory nature in which the stop and frisks are utilized by the New York City Police Department. The article “Why Is the N.Y.P.D. After Me?” details a recount of a young black male’s experiences with being stopped by the police in New York City for no apparent reason and tells of how it affected his daily life and routine as well as how he views the police. The article written in 2011 state, “last year, the N.Y.P.D. recorded more than 600,000 stops; 84 percent of those stopped were blacks and Latinos. Police are far more likely to use force when stopping blacks and Latinos than whites. In half the stops police cite the vague ‘furtive movements’ as the reason for the stop” (Peart, 2011). The article goes on to state that these methods used by the NYPD have done nothing to reduce the crime rate in the city according to statistics.

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I do not believe that the reasonably articulable suspicion standard should apply to vague enough reasons as furtive movements which allow the police unfettered discretion to stop virtually anyone. Terry v. Ohio suggest that the reasonably articulable suspicion standard should be specific enough to protect the fourth amendment rights of citizens. It is important to note that in Terry, the suspect was ‘casing’ a convenience store. The article “an analysis of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy in the context of claims of racial bias” states with regard to NYPD stops, “concerns were raised about racial bias in pedestrian stops of citizens by police predicated on zero tolerance policies to control quality-of-life crimes and aggressive policing strategies concentrated in minority communities that targeted illegal gun possession and drug trafficking. These practices prompted angry reactions among minority citizens that widened the breach between different racial/ethnic groups in their trust in police, provoking a crisis of legitimacy with legal, moral , and political dimensions” (Gelman, 2005). One of the biggest reasons for these concerns is that the standard set in Terry has been so eroded that the police no longer need a person specific reason to stop a person and frisk him. I believe that the standard set in Terry needs to be interpreted narrowly and reinforced by the courts of New York.

One reason that the standard for the stop and frisk should not be broadly interpreted to include such things as general furtive movement is illustrated in the New York Times article. The fear of crime is being replaced by the fear of police in many minority communities. As the author of the aforementioned article stated that he changed his routine and daily life out of fear of these stops. This is the same affect that a high crime rate would have on those in the area.

I believe that sources such as the New York Times are good sources to gain information on personal recounts of police stops and how they affect the citizens of certain communities within New York City. However, the accuracy of these recounts are difficult to verify. Scholarly articles, however, a generally missing any personal information so that the reader can gain a sense of the experience of those in the community with the police. In addition, scholarly articles tend to focus on statistics and theories without proposing immediate real solutions to the given problem.

  • Gelman, Andrew, Jeffrey Fagan, and Alex Kiss. “An Analysis of the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy in the Context of Claims of Racial Bias.” Columbia University. December 14, 2005.
  • Peart, Nicholas K. “Why Is the N.Y.P.D. After Me?” The New York Times. December 17, 2011.

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