Donald Trump has called for the return of “stop and frisk” techniques popularized by the New York Police Department where the police, with minimum or no articulable basis, to support criminal suspicion on the part of a citizen, would stop and question a pedestrian, then frisk them for weapons and other contraband. The practice led to the stop of roughly 684,000 people in 2011. The vast majority of those stopped were African-American or Latino a disparity that led to constitutional challenges.The overwhelming percentage of such stops did not result in criminal prosecutions.

In 2013, United States District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin enjoined the City of New York from engaging in the practice on the basis that the police practices violated the fourth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. Although an appellate court removed this judge from the case and reassigned the matter to another judge, a change in Mayors and philosophy resulted in a suspension of this policing method thereby leaving the bench and bar without significant legal precedent. 

Stop and frisk practices continue to be reviewed under the Terry v. Ohio rule. Under the law of this case,  an officer may make a reasonable search of a person where the officer’s  safety or that of others is endangered.  The officer may do a reasonable search for weapons of the person believed by him to be armed and dangerous regardless of whether he has probable cause to arrest that individual for a crime or the absolute certainty that the individual is armed.


Because the “stop and frisk” approach did not add to the reduction of crime, and because the freedom and Constitutional rights of all citizens, and in particular minorities, to navigate freely about the country was compromised by this invasive police practice, we see no valid reason to reinstate it. Accordingly, Trump is wrong for advocating that the police should return to stopping and frisking citizens where reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and officer safety is not present.

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