Contributor: Errol McLeish:
The world did not stand still , neither was there a global broadcast made after the conclusion of the case, but the few that took notice of the land mark decision by Judge Shira Scheindlin in the stop and frisk policy case, a suit which was being pursued by New Yorkers who have been stopped and frisked without cause the city of New York , thought it should have had that effect .
The judge in making her ruling, had to consider scientific and statistical analysis from experts from either party to the suit and concluded in favour of the plaintiff, that the policy amounted to indirect racial profiling.
Before expounding on this issue, this would indeed be an opportune time, to elucidate and educate those who might not be familiar with the concept, by briefly engaging in an historical overview of the genesis of this controversial policy.
Stop and frisk is a policy being employed by Law enforcement agencies in the US , primarily its police forces in circumstances where the officer is suspicious of a person , detains that person and runs his hands lightly over the suspects outer garment to determine whether the person is carrying a concealed weapon .
It is not a new initiative by the police, however it was not until 1968 that the Supreme Court evaluated it under the fourth amendment, against unreasonable stops and seizure. It was determined in the land mark case of Terry v Ohio that stop and frisk was not in breach of the fourth amendment.
Its implementation, however , have not gone without negative conations , particularly in the state of New York where it is has been selective and excessive in its usage by the Police who have used it to target blacks and Hispanics prompting civil rights groups to challenge its use .
The judge in hearing the issues from both sides was treated by the plaintiff engaged services of Dr. Jeffery Fagan , a criminologist at Columbia Law School and the city commissioned experts and critique of Fagan’s work, Dennis Smith of N.Y.U Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and Robert Purtell of the Suny System’ University of Albany .
After listening to an in-depth statistical and scientific analysis presented by Fagan and an equally in depth attempt by the city’s experts Drs. Smith and Purtell , to debunk Fagan’s findings , the court found that the presentation by Fagan were plausible and reliable . The conclusion, that stop and frisk policy utilized by the New York police were indirect racial profiling.
Interestingly, subsequent to this decision, Newt Gingrich, a presidential aspirant, was engaged in a debate on CNN and staunchly defended the policy. One of the reasons , this diminutive cerebellum gave to supporting it , was that Mayors Bloomberg and his predecessor Giuliani supported the policy. It was quickly pointed out to him that not because it was supported by the Mayors, the flaws identified in its execution should be over looked for what they truly are, racially prejudicial.
The legal challenges are certainly not over, as already Mayor Bloomberg has indicated that he will be appealing the ruling. The Judge herself has conceded that the issue no doubt might have to be resolved by the Supreme Court. Whatever the subsequent outcome and counter action made on behalf of the city, the decision has confirmed what many minorities have long suspected, that the stop and frisk policy is racially selective and an indirect policy of racial profiling.