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Queens Chronicle

The overuse of stop-and-frisk

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:33 pm, Wed Nov 27, 2019.

Mike Bloomberg was wrong about stop-and-frisk, and so were we. The practice of police accosting people on the street, questioning them and patting them down was used far too often, and while we don’t think the issue was as clear-cut as some critics said, its benefits were not worth the costs.

The worst of the costs were the damage the overuse of stop-and-frisk did to innocent people, mostly young black and Hispanic men, who were the main targets of the practice. The reason for that was the sad fact that young black and Hispanic men commit the vast majority of violent crime in the city, specifically more than 90 percent of all homicides. The main goal of stop-and-frisk was to get guns off the street, so it seemed only natural that proportionately more blacks and Hispanics would be subjected to it than whites or Asians. But the fact is that the vast majority of those patted down were not guilty of anything. And that understandably fueled resentment against the NYPD among many in the minority community, which already had good historical reasons to be distrustful of police. Don’t forget that lawmen elsewhere were committing violence against black people on a massive scale only a few decades ago. Black people certainly haven’t forgotten. Nor should they.

We supported stop-and-frisk because it seemed to be part and parcel of the historic crime reduction the city has enjoyed for just about 30 years now. Whenever we thought violent crime rates couldn’t go any lower, they did, and stop-and-frisk was sold as a key element of the NYPD’s strategy.

But after it was reduced somewhat near the end of Bloomberg’s last term, and cut dramatically under Mayor de Blasio, crime continued to fall. There were brief spikes, including one in 2014 that seemed to follow de Blasio’s major reduction in stop-and-frisk, but in the end murders have continued to fall. The only thing that’s fallen faster is the use of stop-and-frisk.

We hope Bloomberg’s apology, though obviously tied to his presidential ambitions, can help heal the wounds between police and minority communities — with both sides growing to respect each other more. The past should not be forgotten but one must recognize what has changed in order to move forward.

Welcome to the discussion.