Chicago has a problem, and Donald Trump has the answer. It’s so straightforward he can express it in two words: stop and frisk.
“When you have 3,000 shootings in Chicago from January 1st, when you have 4,000 people killed in Chicago by guns from the beginning of the presidency of Barack Obama, his hometown, you have to have stop-and-frisk,” Trump said during Monday’s presidential debate.
This came shortly after another two-word solution, a remarkably brazen response to a question about how to heal America’s racial divide: law and order. That phrase is universally recognized as the dog-whistle slogan that Richard Nixon and George Wallace used to appeal to the white racist backlash vote a generation ago.
For Trump, stop-and-frisk is about preventing gun violence. “If [police] see a person probably with a gun or they think may have a gun, they will see the person, they’ll look, and they’ll take the gun away,” he said on “Fox & Friends” last week. “They’ll stop, they’ll frisk, and they’ll take the gun away.”
But wasn’t stop-and-frisk ruled unconstitutional in New York City, asked moderator Lester Holt. “No, you’re wrong,” Trump responded. When Holt asked about the argument that stop-and-frisk involves racial profiling, Trump deflected the question.
That struck Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “You may disagree with a ruling, but that doesn’t mean it never happened.”
In fact, in 2013 Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that stop-and-frisk as practiced in New York was unconstitutional, finding it violated the 4th Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection. (In an utterly bizarre and widely criticized move, an appeals court stayed Scheindlin’s ruling and removed her from the case, but New York Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped the appeal – so the ruling stands.)
Chicago has experience with stop-and-frisk. Under Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, we had the most intense stop-and-frisk program in the nation – using the practice at four times the rate that New York did at the height of its stop-and-frisk program, according to a 2015 ACLU study.
A quarter million Chicagoans were stopped without finding any criminal activity during just three months in the summer of 2014, the ACLU reported. Reviewing a random set of contact cards, the ACLU found that officers gave no reason or gave unconstitutional reasons (such as “suspicious person”) in half of the stops recorded.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1968 ruling in Terry v. Ohio, street stops are constitutional only when there’s a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, and searches are allowable on reasonable suspicion that an individual is armed and dangerous – based not on a “hunch” but on “specific and articulable facts.”
Chicago Police Department policy required supervisors to review contact cards and to correct officers who failed to give legal justifications for stops, or refer them for training or discipline. The city was unable to identify a single officer who had received follow-up training on making legal stops, the ACLU reported.
Blacks and Latinos were stopped at rates far out of proportion to the population, together accounting for 89 percent of street stops, according to the report.
Trump will tell you that’s necessary to get guns out of the hands of “bad people.” But he’s wrong. Chip Mitchell of WBEZ compared the rate of street stops and gun seizures over the past decade. When stops went up under Supt. Phil Cline, gun seizures went down. When McCarthy put huge emphasis on street stops, gun seizures dropped to the lowest level in decades.
After a legal agreement with the ACLU went into effect this year requiring more data collection on street stops, they dropped by 84 percent in the first six months of this year, according to WBEZ. Gun seizures have remained steady. (What have gone down markedly, according to FiveThirtyEight, are drug arrests.)
According to the Washington Post, data don’t support Trump’s assertion that stop-and-frisk drove down crime rates in New York either.
The problem with indiscriminate and overwhelming use of stop-and-frisk in communities of color, Yohnka says, is that “people in these neighborhoods don’t see Officer Friendly, they see an occupying force that’s just throwing kids up against the wall.”
Treating innocent people like criminals isn’t a solution to anything.