The New York City Police Department enacted a stop and frisk program was enacted to ensure the safety of pedestrians and the safety of the entire city. Stop and frisk is a practice which police officers stop and question hundreds of thousands of pedestrians annually, and frisk them for weapons and other contraband. Those who are found to be carrying any weapons or illegal substances are placed under arrest, taken to the station for booking, and if needed given a summons to appear in front of a judge at a later date. The NYPD’s rules for stop and frisk are based on the United States Supreme Courts decision in Terry v. Ohio. The ruling in Terry v. Ohio held that search and seizure, under the Fourth Amendment, is not violated when a police officer stops a suspect on the street and frisks him or her without probable cause to arrest. If the police officer has a “reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime” and has a reasonable belief that the person "may be armed and presently dangerous”, an arrest is justified (Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, at 30).
While the stop and frisk program ultimately seems like a great idea and that it will help residents of New York City feel safer while on the streets, there has been much controversy with this program. The issue of racial profiling is largely discussed when talking about NYPD’s stop and frisk program. Besides police officers targeting lower income neighborhoods, more stops are of African Americans or Latinos than of whites. These stops often end up with a higher arrest rate. Of the 685,784 stopped last year, 92% were male and 87% were African American or Latino (Devereaux, 2012).
When an officer stops a person in NYC, the officer is required to fill out a form in order to record the details of the stop. The officer fills out the form by hand and then they are manually entered into a database. The NYPD reports its data to the public in two ways, one is a paper report released quarterly and the other is an electronic database released annually done by the New York Civil Liberties Union. The paper reports include data on stops, arrests, and summonses. The data is broken down by precinct of the stop and race and gender of the person stopped. The electronic database includes the age of person stopped, if they were frisked, if a weapon or firearm was found, if physical force was used, it also tells the exact location of the stop within the precinct. The N.Y.C.L.U. has been collecting data from early 2002. Over the 10+ years of research, the amount of stops has increased from 97,269 to 532,911 in 2012, with a high in the year of 2011 with 685,784. As the amount of annual stops have increased, the amount of African Americans and Latinos stopped as also increased, compared to whites being stopped. An annual average of 54% of stops conducted were of African or black Americans (Racial Justice, New York Civil Liberties Union).
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