Earlier today, Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump stated that he would embrace “stop-and-frisk” practices if elected. He praised the practice in New York City, sating “[i]n New York City it was so incredible, the way it worked.” He’s sort of right; it was incredible in its biased application and negligible impact on crime.
Back in 2008 there was a suit brought against New York City alleging that the stop-and frisk practice targeted Black and Latino residents disproportionately. That lawsuit resulted in a 2013 ruling that “found the New York City Police Department liable for a pattern and practice of racial profiling and unconstitutional stops.” Prior to the ruling, the available data as reported by the Huffington Post clearly indicated that the practice was far more likely to result in black or Latino residents being stopped, despite the fact that white residents were nearly twice as likely to be found with weapons. Overall only about 10% of the stops resulted in arrest or summons, and there was no significant impact on crime.
After the 2013 ruling a federal monitor was appointed to ensure compliance with various directives handed down by the federal court. Stops had to be based on an articulable reasonable suspicion, rather than solely at the officer’s discretion. Since 2013 the number of stops has been steadily declining, though the monitor was skeptical as of 2015 as to whether the sharp decrease was an accurate representation of the number of stops, asserting that he believed stops were being underreported. The New York Civil Liberties Union keeps tabs on numbers provided by New York City, and noted that despite the enormous reduction encounters (22,939 in 2015 as opposed to the peak of 685,724 in 2011) black and Latino citizens continue to be stopped disproportionately.
A nominee that is constantly under attack – even from his own political party – for seemingly racist or otherwise biased and bigoted statements might not want to latch on to a police tactic that the courts have ruled unconstitutional and racially biased. This is also at a time of heightened tension between minority populations, especially black citizens, and police. This might have been a poor strategic move if he intended to try and draw support from non-white voters. It’s also unlikely to woo any support from people who pay attention to data, since this was clearly a failed program.
This is hardly a new development for Mr. Trump. Throughout his campaign he has rejected facts, promulgated ridiculous conspiracy theories and outright lies, made overtly bigoted and misogynist statements, and accepted support from well-established hate groups. Embracing this failed policy is consistent with his track record, and it is unacceptable. Let’s hope this gets the scrutiny and publicity it deserves.