Stop and Frisk Policy

6 June 2016

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the pros and cons of the Stop and Frisk policy in New York. This paper covers a short history of Stop and Frisk. It also will address the progression of the policy throughout the years. Furthermore, it will relate the topic to the management, gender, and race class focusing in on how the unconscious bias plays a role in how the police choose who to stop. The paper also includes some statistics of Stop and Frisk encounters. It will conclude with the group opinion of the Stop and Frisk policy.

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New York City has a policy in place known as the Stop and Frisk policy. According to New York Criminal Procedure (2012), if a police officer, “suspects that (a) person is committing, has committed or is about to commit either (a) a felony or (b) a misdemeanor defined in the penal law, and may demand of him his name, address and an explanation of his conduct (“New York Criminal,” 2012).” Also stated in the procedural handbook, if a police officer, “reasonably suspects that he is in danger of physical injury, he may search such person for a deadly weapon or any instrument, article or substance readily capable of causing serious physical injury and of a sort not ordinarily carried in public places by law-abiding persons (“New York Criminal,” 2012).”

In short, this policy allows officers to stop suspicious citizens and frisk them for weapons or drugs; it was put into place on September 1, 1971 (“WNYC Newsroom,” 2012). According to Hennelly (2009), “Ninety percent of those stopped were people of color. Only about 10 percent produced an arrest or summons… the NYPD has consistently denied that its stop and frisk strategy involves racial profiling.” Stop and frisk has been the cause of many disagreements and lawsuits (“WNYC Newsroom,” 2012); the policy comes with many pros and cons.


New York’s stop and frisk policy could be seen as both negative and beneficial. If the stop and frisk is conducted according to procedure, no one is harmed and there is the possibility of removing another criminal from the streets. It benefits the public, in that it offers a sense of security and safety. However, along with these benefits come many negative side
effects. It is seen as an invasion of privacy. More often than not, the person is found to be innocent of any crime. Racial profiling is often the tactic for search procedures (Hennelly, 2009). People become leery of the police begin to lose their trust in law enforcement. Many New Yorkers feel that they are stopped simply because of the color of their skin, the way they dress or the neighborhood they live in.


Even though stop and frisk is a popular technique used by police all over the country, New York is one of the most controversial states. Since Mayor Bloomberg came in to office in 2003, stop and frisks incidents have risen by 600 percent (Carver, 2013). There have been many lawsuits filed against the City of New York, and the New York Police Department for unlawfully stopping minority males on the street. The lawsuits claim that police officers were subject to stop and frisk quotas each month that they were required to make. A Brooklyn police officer testified in court that he was required to make five stop and search’s a day, which should be logged (Carver, 2013).

Stop and frisk can be looked at from two different angles which are on extremely opposite sides of the spectrum. The first side, arguing for stop and frisk, is that it saves lives because the more people stopped the more likely it is that they will find someone with a weapons or drugs. The other side, arguing against stop and frisk, believe that it promotes racial profiling and only people who belong to minority group are stopped.

Looking at stop and frisk in an objective way one might say that it is a good program that has flaws that need to be worked out. According to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (2013), “We should continue doing stop, question and frisk…We need to create a very clear structure around the use of this tactic to make sure that it isn’t being overly used, to make sure that it isn’t being used in a way that anyone feels they are being targeted because of who they are (Sheets, 2013).” When arguing for stop and frisk one must take into account the other side. People argue that racial profiling is used. However, if one thinks logically it can be argued that a lot of gun and drug activity happens in minority neighborhoods and, as we learned in class, many minorities live in “bad” neighborhoods because they make less money than people who live in “good” neighborhoods. This is not to say that
whites or people who are not considered a minority do not live in “bad” neighborhoods, it simply means that the majority of these people are minorities. With that being said, because more drug and gun activity take place in these neighborhoods and more minorities live there, it is more likely that more minorities will be stopped.

Another possibility is that the officers stopping the minorities have an unconscious bias brought on by the media or one of the theories we learned about in class. For example, if an officer stopped an African American man it is possible that the media has trained his mind to think of African American men as criminals.

The same is true of people who think that all terrorists are from an Arabic background. According to Schaefer (2009), it is also possible that their unconscious bias was formed from the peer and social influences they may have faced in their lives or because of the way they saw authority figures act when they were growing up (Schaefer, 2007). People have to become aware of their unconscious biases in order to change their points of view.

On the other hand, when arguing against stop and frisk, one may choose to only look at the negative side of it. Numerous people are stopped every year and only a small percentage of those stopped actually have weapons or drugs (Carver, 2013). Is it possible that people are getting stopped based on the way they are dressed, the color of their skin, or where they live?

People who argue against stop and frisk may argue that officers who stop people are invading their privacy based on their race or ethnicity. This is brought about by stereotyping. People assume that because some people from a certain ethnic or racial group have been known to carry weapons or drugs that all people belonging to that group carry them. Others who argue against stop and frisk, such as Councilman Jumaane Williams, believe that stop and frisk is simply not working. “I don’t know how stop, question, and frisks leads to less murders if the shootings have stayed the same,” he said. “That means people are surviving being shot, so we keep being wedded and keep giving credit to stop, question, and frisk for everything (Stieber, 2013).” RELATION TO CLASS

Whether one agrees with stop and frisk or not, we can see that the reasons some people are stopped and others do not may have a lot to do with the unconscious bias, authoritarian theory, or normative theory.

It is obvious that the stop and frisk laws bring about strong opinions on both sides of the spectrum. Those who argue for it are could make the argument that even though only about ten percent of the incidents where people are stopped constitute an arrest that is still ten percent less criminals who are in possession of drugs or weapons who are no longer walking the streets (Velez, 2013). In a city as large as New York with the crime rate that they have it is an easy argument that ten percent less criminals on the street is an excellent improvement to the safety of law abiding citizens. While it may be an inconvenience for some people by taking time out of their day, those who have nothing to hide also have nothing to worry about. Knowing that the police are vigilantly on the lookout for suspicious behavior and have the right to question those they deem may be a threat without the fear of being reprimanded seems like it would be a comfort to all families who fear for the safety of their children and themselves.

Conversely, many people are of the opinion that Stop and Frisk gives the police too much license to abuse their power. It is very difficult to pin point what exactly constitutes “suspicious behavior” which creates a grey area that police could exploit. Additionally the existence of a quota system requiring police to make a certain number of stops per day or per week only help to strengthen the disapproval to the stop and frisk law.


This article has mentioned arguments such as racial profiling, invasion of privacy, and unconscious bias, and after all police are not perfect, they are just human beings who are just as capable of biases discrimination and prejudice as everyone else. Those against stop and frisk believe many of the police base their right to stop an individual on their attire or their ethnicity and not on how they are behaving and that this is a serious injustice to innocent people who simply trying to express themselves with
their clothing and their culture.

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