Laws and regulations limit persons
Laws and regulations limit persons from violating the constitutional rights of others. States laws prevent and or reduce crime rates (Peak, 2012). However, such laws should reflect both legal and ethical soundness in their application. As one of the constitutional rights, people have the right and freedom of movement without violation of their privacy unless a court order justifies such a violation. However, this freedom is impinged on in the State of New York. In the early 1990s, the stop and frisk law found its way into the States laws to promote proactive policing (Kuh, 2005, p.34). Procedural laws for the State of New York under section 140:50 make provision for it. The ruling by the US Supreme Court on the case ofTerry v. Ohioinforms this law. It gives the New York Police Department (NYPD) legal justification for stopping and frisking pedestrians in search of contrabands such as weapons. Although one of the mandates of the NYPD includes preventing crime from occurring by deploying legal means, this paper questions the legal and ethical foundation of the stop and frisk law applied by the NYPD. It also discusses the pros and cons of the law.
Police not only target to arrest crime perpetrators, but also they seek to prevent the occurrence of crime. This assertion implies that the police have to recover weapons in the wrong hands before their utilization to commit a crime such as murder. When applied properly, in theory, stop and frisk law is advantageous along this line of argument. The interpretation of this pro in the context of the criminology theory of the broken window better elaborates this perspective. The broken window theory argues that maintaining and monitoring urban areas to ensure orderliness conditions incredibly aid in the prevention of additional vandalism and a series of crimes. For example, a house with only few of its windows broken presents no harm to any person; however, when vandalized by breaking more windows, homeless people acquire a better view and access to the building. They soon realize that the house has no occupants. Therefore, they settle and light fires inside, which cause more destruction of the house, and ultimately, it becomes a squatters abode.
In the context of crime prevention, the broken window theory suggests that more crimes have possibilities of becoming major crimes if they remain unchecked, which is analogous to failure to maintain the house in a good condition. This reason underlines the importance of stop and frisk law as it enables the police to stop people, especially within areas with high crime prevalence rates, and search them for dangerous substances coupled with weapons. This move helps in the elimination of guns from the streets. Hence, the law curtails incidences of occurrence of serious crimes. Through the law, the NYPD can repair the houses broken window much earlier before it becomes a squatters abode. By deployment of this approach to crime prevention, murder crimes in New York went down by 30 percent between 1990 and1994 (Kuh, 2005). This occurrence corresponds to the time of implementation of the stop and frisk law in the state of New York.
The Stop and frisk rule helps in the reduction of crimes rates. Citing aCNNreport, Berginski (2013) evidences that in 1990, the serious crime rates in New York were over 500 thousand and there were over 2,200 murders while in 2011, there were over 100 thousand serious crimes and over 500 murders (p.1s). This assertion indicates the effectiveness of the stop and frisk law in reducing crime rates by 23 percent from 1990 to 2011. However, the law fails to be acceptable both ethically and morally. It does not apply equally to all citizens amid their demographic characteristics. Evidence of demographical traits of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD since inception of the law shows the disproportionate application of the law based on racial characteristics (Kuh, 2005). The law targets the Blacks and Hispanics and this element underscores one of the biggest cons of the stop and frisk laws discussed further in the following section on cons of the law.
In 2011, the NYPD stopped and frisked more than 684000 people, with the majority being Latinos and of African American racial background (Berginski, 2013). According to Berginski (2013), from 2004 to 2012, the NYPD had stopped more than 4.4 million people in the effort to implement the stop and frisk policy. Between 2011 and 2012, 87 percent of those stopped were Hispanic or African Americans (Berginski, 2013). In all these people stopped, only about 12 percent found viable suspects for criminal activity, which suggests that the application of stop and frisk law even though as discussed above has the pro of enhancing the reduction of crime rates, they have the con of racial undertones.
Racial discrimination comes out clearly as evidenced in the statistics of the on stoppages between 2004 and 2012. For the 4.4 million people stopped during this period, whites accounted for paltry 10 percent. Blacks took the biggest share of 52 percent, while Hispanics accounted for the rest. Amid this racial preference in stoppages, according to Berginski (2013), Both blacks and whites had the same total amount of illicit materials seized, 16,000, and there were 14,000 illicit materials seized from Hispanics (p.18). This realization suggests that even though many whites went without being stooped and frisked simply because they did not look suspicious asTerry v. Ohioholds, they posed higher security threats than the groups of people targeted more by the stop and frisk law. In the context of these statistics, a significant question arises on whether stopping and frisking of people has any legal foundation.
Another con of the stop and frisk law entails the violation of the fundamental right protection of individuals privacy. On March 18 this year, a US district court presided over a case challenging the constitutionality of the stop and frisk law applied by the NYPD. The case,Floyd v. City of New York, was a class-action suit against breaking into privacy of minority communities without possession of the necessary legal documents such as a courts warrant of search to authenticate such a violation of human right anchored in the US constitution. The plaintiff in the case, Clarkson, Dennis, Ourlicht, and Floyd, were all of and the alleged violation of their rights by the NYPD through stoppage in search of weapons and dangerous substances. They claimed that the stoppage act violated their privacy, a basic right provided for in the Fourth Amendment of the US constitution.