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Editorial April 4, 2013  RSS feed

EDITORIAL

What’s the big deal about “stop-and-frisk”? Why is it that this local police tactic sends so many people into a frenzy, yet few protest the security methods of TSA agents at the airports?

Occasionally, you hear the story of a grandma or an infant being unceremoniously manhandled by a TSA agent trained to believe that anyone could be carrying a bomb. Yet the majority of the American people—for reasons that should be obvious to everyone in this post-9/11 world—put up with airport frisking and go about their business.

Do the citizens of this city want to go back to the bad old days of the early 1990s, when over 2,000 people were murdered every year?

Last year, there were less than 420 murders, an all-time low for the city. There is no doubt that the “stop-and-frisk” policy used by the NYPD is in a large way responsible for the decrease.

“Stop-and-frisk” is one of many tactics used by NYPD officers to find potential threats to the safety of the city. According to the department, under “stop-and-frisk, officers can stop any individual on the street whom they “reasonably suspect ... has committed, is committing or is about to commit a felony or a Penal Law misdemeanor.”

Combined with other NYPD efforts—including the enhanced crime reporting initiative known as “CompStat” and targeted enforcement programs such as “Operation IMPACT”—the department has dropped violent crime in the five boroughs over the last 20 years after reaching astronomical highs.

Even so, advocates of civil rights groups and certain elected officials claim that this tactic is unfairly used by the NYPD to target minorities. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other supporters of “stop-and-frisk” claim that the procedure does not discriminate, adding that officers use their training to determine who should be stopped.

Detractors of “stop and frisk” have launched lawsuits and trotted out the discrimination card in an effort to bring an end to the tactic. There are also a number of mayoral candidates who, in their search for votes, have jumped on the “end stop-andfrisk” bandwagon.

These same candidates have also added another dimension in their efforts to pander to those who want to handcuff the police by calling for an “inspector general” to review—and, if necessary, amend—departmental procedures.

Nobody wants a police state, but the NYPD is far from that. Officers walk into situations the average person would run away from, yet the department is constantly monitored and made to answer for its every move.

There are agencies in place to regulate NYPD operations and punish those officers who step over the line, including the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYPD Internal Affairs Division and district attorneys’ offices. The City Council and mayor can also pass laws defining police procedures.

“Stop-and-frisk” may offend the sensibilities of some people, but being shot by a criminal with a gun is, by far, more offensive. The program is not about race, but about public safety—and though imperfect, it is effective.

Let the police do their job, so New Yorkers of every background can sleep more safely in their homes.