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by Peter Moskos

February 23, 2011

600,000 (official) stops in NYC

Here's the story in the Times and in the Daily News.

The difficulty is that any benefits and harms of aggressive stop and frisks are not only found in aggregate numbers but also in the individual incidents. Some of these stops are good. Some aren't. So how do we tell the difference? How do we keep the good and get rid of the bad?

In theory, I'm not against police stopping people based on reasonable suspicion. What's the alternative? Waiting for someone to call 911?

In practice, I worry about young and inexperienced officers stopping people to meet quotas.

In theory, I think stop and frisks can play an essential role in crime prevention and getting guns off the streets.

In practice, I worry about the extension of the Terry Frisk to an exploratory search.

And in theory the police can defend the racial disparity of those being stopped...

But in practice the NYPD needs to do a better job doing so. There are legitimate, serious, and moral issues involved. Simply pointing to crime stats isn't enough.

On one hand, it might be hard to defend this tactic if crime goes up. On the other hand, it's worth contrasting the situation in New York with the situation in Seattle. We need better policing--not less policing.


Anonymous said...

The solution to the problem is not difficult. the solution is to have the policeman make a smallish, automatic payment to the suspect everytime there is a fruitless frisk.

How big should the payment be?

It should be large enough so that at least 10% of the frisks turn up what they are supposed to turn up.

It should be small enough so that no more than 10% of the frisks turn up what they are supposed to turn up.

The actual number can be refined and worked out over time.

The only real problem is getting the policemen's union on board with this. they enjoy the current (bad) situation and will not allow change unless a governor holds their feet to the proverbial fire.

PCM said...

That's crazy talk!

(I happen to like crazy talk.)

Johnny Law said...

Well that is the stupidest idea I have heard in awhile. I guess it is a good idea if you just want officers to drive around in their cars and not try to do their jobs.

PCM, if you like the idea of paying for searches that don't find anything, then you have been off the street way too long.

PCM said...

I didn't say I like it. I said it was crazy. And I like crazy. There's a difference there.

Of course it's a dumb idea. But I still like hearing it!