It was gratifying last week to see a federal appeals court halt a ruling prohibiting the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” practice and throw the judge off the case.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin redefined the term judicial activism by urging litigation be filed against the policy and then hearing the case.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, she told attorneys, “If you got proof of inappropriate racial profiling in a good constitutional case, why don’t you bring a lawsuit?”
The lawsuit was brought, and Scheindlin, not surprisingly, ruled against the police. It was an arrogant abuse of power, and she deserved the comeuppance. More importantly, her ruling restricting stop-and-frisk should be reversed.
The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to decide the city’s appeal of the judge’s ruling, which mandated that a panel of her choosing monitor police actions. The justices’ finding allows the police to continue the stop-and-frisk practice while the appeal is being heard. Under stop-and-frisk, police stop, question and sometimes search individuals if the police have grounds to believe they are linked to a crime.
Other communities use stop-and-frisk, but New York police pioneered the practice.
A 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling had held such practices were constitutional if officers had a reasonable cause to believe the suspect is engaged, or about to be engaged, in unlawful activity.
It’s little noted that only about half the stop-and-frisk cases in New York resulted in searches.
Liberals such as Scheindlin see this as abusive and racist, but as Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has documented, residents in high-crime neighborhoods are the primary beneficiaries of the policy.
Mac Donald detailed in The Wall Street Journal last summer how, since New York began its aggressive police patrols in the 1990s, murders have gone down by 80 percent and major felonies by nearly 75 percent.
Mac Donald underscores the key point: Claiming the policy is discriminatory simply because the majority of those stopped are black or Hispanic is ludicrous because the preponderance of crime perpetrators — and victims — in New York are black or Hispanic.
She points out, “Minorities make up nearly 80 percent of the drop in the homicide victims since the early 1990s.”
It is hardly discrimination to recognize who is most likely to be a threat in a crime-plagued neighborhood.
The stop-and-frisk practice is not appropriate everywhere. Hillsborough County law enforcement officials will stop and frisk under certain circumstances but don’t believe wide-scale practice is necessary. But New York and some other large cities have found the crime-fighting tool effective.
The stop-and-frisk policy may change under Bill de Blasio, a liberal who was just elected New York mayor. He shouldn’t be surprised if ending the policy also results in more crime.
Those who have opposed the policy appear more concerned about upholding liberal dogma than the genuine threats to the rights and welfare of minorities. In New York, stop-and-frisk has saved lives and communities.