To build trust with minority communities, end stop and frisk

The policy only furthers distrust between minority communities and law enforcement

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Stop and frisk sows distrust into the minority communities it disproportionately affects.

Courtesy Jeffrey Smith via Flickr

A police report about the use of stop and frisk in Charlottesville was discussed last month in a City Council meeting. The implications of the report are stunning, with African-Americans making up a disproportionate number of citizens stopped — 71 percent in 2017. This mirrors the racial disparity found in stop and frisk policies in other cities around the United States, such as New York and Los Angeles. In response, the Daily Progress Editorial Board lamented these troubling statistics and the state of race relations in this country, stating that, “As a society, and as a law enforcement community reflecting society, we’ve got to do better than we’ve done in the past.” 

We could not agree more with this sentiment. However, when the editorial board discussed the policy’s disproportionate effects, it did not mention stop and frisk’s inherent flaws as a law enforcement tactic. It is clear that in order to address issues of mistrust between minority groups and the police, ineffective policies like stop and frisk must be discarded.

The main reason Charlottesville should do away with its stop and frisk policy is because it is ineffective. Many supporters of this policy, including President Donald Trump, point to New York as an example of the success of stop and frisk in reducing crime. However, this claim leaves out several facts that disprove the suggestion that these policies are in any way effective. 

A Washington Post analysis comparing stop and frisk incidents in New York with FBI crime data shows that there is almost no connection between these policies and a subsequent drop in crime. Crime started dropping in New York before stop and frisk was utilized to its fullest extent. Furthermore, after a federal judge demanded that the program be scaled back, crime continued to drop, making any link between drops in crime and stop and frisk dubious at best. 

In addition, many supporters of stop and frisk point to Chicago as evidence of the necessity of this policy. Data shows that in Chicago, violent crime actually increased after their stop and frisk program was scaled back. This analysis, however, ignores the fact that New York reduced their stop and frisk program at the same time as Chicago, and they saw crime remain at historically low levels. Additionally, many other major cities did not see a comparable increase in crime. This evidence proves that stop and frisk is not the be-all-end-all, and that crime in cities are caused by a number of factors that cannot simply be explained by the use of a stop and frisk program.

Those who are primarily affected by this policy are experiencing a decrease in their levels of trust in law enforcement. A Gallup poll recorded trust in police dropping between 2012 and 2014 and 2015 and 2017 amongst several groups, including young people and racial minorities. This is troubling because such a large percentage of stop and frisk incidents affect racial minorities, with few of them resulting in any charges — 70 to 80 percent of detentions lead to no arrest or summons in Charlottesville.

With so few incidents of arrest and no clear evidence of the efficacy of this program, it is troubling that it continues in Charlottesville. Instead of tackling crime, stop and frisk sows distrust in the minority communities it disproportionately affects, which is at odds with what should be occurring between citizens and their police departments. Trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve is key to any effective policing strategy, and a breakdown in that relationship is worrisome for any community.

It is clear that police officers have an incredibly difficult job. Law enforcement officials put themselves on the line for our communities every single day, while making a good faith effort to build relationships in the communities they serve. Unfortunately, stop and frisk policies undermine efforts to build that trust. It is alarming that this policy unfairly targets minorities — especially when trust in the police among these groups has declined. Effective relationships cannot be built between law enforcement and community members as long as some feel they are being placed under a disproportionate amount of scrutiny for almost no real tangible results. Due to its inefficacy and impact on minority communities, it is imperative that Charlotteville ends its use of stop and frisk. Local leaders should use their platforms to address these concerns. 

The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the executive editor, editor in chief and three at-large members of the paper. The board can be reached at eb@cavalierdaily.com.

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