Stop-and-frisk tactics don’t reduce crime and cause mistrust towards police forces.
Stop-and-frisk tactics by American police forces have been the topic of much recent debate and concern because they are seen by many as a threat to the safety of African-Americans and Latinos. Part of the debate revolves around the necessity for such tactics in the context of crime reduction. However, several researches on stop-and-frisk tactics indicate that there is no strong relationship between stop-and-frisk operations and crime reduction.
Several studies show different important points relating to stop-and-frisk tactics. First of all, according to the researchers, the NYPD stopped 2.4 million people between 2009 and 2014, of which 150.000 people (6%) were arrested. 16% of these arrests were never prosecuted, and another 10% were dismissed. Only one in fifty (0.1% of all stops) led to a conviction for possession of a weapon, and again only one in fifty (0.1% of all stops) led to a conviction for a crime of violence.
Several studies state that while the use of stop-and-frisk tactics doesn’t necessarily lead to a decrease in criminality, it does damage the relationship between the population and the police. According to Solis and colleagues, Latino youth in New York had difficulties trusting the police force, because their relationship had suffered greatly from the harsh treatment during routing stop-and-frisks without cause or explanation. Another study by Epp and colleagues found that African-Americans reported way more disrespectful behavior from police officers than white Americans did, and that they consequently didn’t feel that the police was there to protect them.
This injustice felt by people who are, and/or feel that they are, treated disrespectfully by the police will lead them to conclude that the police behavior is due to how the officers see them as a ‘group’. As a consequence, the legitimacy of the police force is reduced and the police can no longer be seen as a just and fair entity that aims to protect and serve. Here, it is not important whether or not the police is in fact to be trusted, but rather, that a large part of the population feels it isn’t.
Rather than aiming to reduce crime by personally ‘stopping’ (and frisking) hundreds of thousands of citizens hoping to find a guilty one amongst them based on a profile that they might seem to fit, more should be done to combat structural poverty leading to crime and the overall societal marginalization of certain groups. In the very least, it seems that more could be done to target or single out the specific groups of people who get convicted, rather than having all the others suffer the consequences.