Stop and Frisk – Unconstitutional

What if I told you that your state had just decided to implement a new crime fighting strategy called stop and frisk that allowed the police to stop anyone anywhere in the state and frisk them to make sure they were not breaking any laws – moreover this strategy could help to lower crime in your state. Would you be excited about the new law? I assume that many of you would be unhappy about the prospect of a police officer pulling you over and patting you down, simply because he didn’t like way you looked (even more if it’s because he did like the way you looked). Well, New York City has been engaging in this police-state tactic for a decade, but it finally looks like it will be coming to an end.

A federal judge has ordered that the New York City police department immediately stop engaging in the practice of stop and frisk. Ruling that it violates our 4th Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures.

stop and frisk3“While the Supreme Court has long recognized the right of police officers to briefly stop and investigate people who are behaving suspiciously, Judge Scheindlin found that the New York police had overstepped that authority. She found that officers were too quick to deem as suspicious behavior that was perfectly innocent, in effect watering down the legal standard required for a stop. She noted that about 88 percent of the stops result in the police letting the person go without an arrest or ticket, a percentage so high, she said, that it suggests there was not a credible suspicion to suspect the person of criminality in the first place.”

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It is beyond amazing that this practice has gone on for so long. Mayor Bloomberg has been a constant defender of the practice because he believes it is an effective crime deterrent. However, Bloomberg also believes that outlawing big sodas will keep people from becoming fat, too. Obviously Bloomberg is not cut out to be an arbiter of how to best protect society, because far too often he seeks to protect by limiting the rights of law abiding citizens.

The NYPD’s decade long reign of terror should have been stopped years ago, but this is what happens when we react out of fear instead of rational thought.

stop and frisk2We as a free people must never give up our liberties simply for the illusion of safety. Liberty, once lost, is almost impossible to regain without bloodshed. Safety is always imagined and usually subjective. Would you feel safe with a tyrannical government that had all but eliminated crime but also outlawed most of the things you hold dear?

The stop and frisk statutes are a clear violation of the 4th Amendment, and likely exactly what our founders were concerned about so many years ago – just read the text of the amendment.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (emphasis mine)                 —- the 4th Amendment to the Constitution

Could any other decision be reached?

We must never let fear, anger or any other emotion lead us to abandon the principles of liberty that are embodied in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. That may be a path from which we cannot recover.


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