By Lena C. Taylor
It seems like every year or so, someone puts out a study on Stop and Frisk. They’ve done their research and the findings are always the same. Stop and Frisk programs, like Milwaukee’s, are frequently based on race and ethnicity. No reasonable suspicion is offered for the overwhelming amount of stops and the vast majority target Black and Latino individuals. Despite these findings, many legislators and police departments support these policies. Constitutional rights of impacted groups are being trampled on and it needs to stop. Period.
In a recent review of one of the country’s many Stop and Frisk programs, Margo Frasier, an expert in the field of law enforcement and criminal justice, went straight to the heart of deeply rooted problems in the programs and the organizations that conduct them. Amongst other things, she found that in Milwaukee Black people are six times more likely to be stopped than white people and that between 2007 and 2015 the amount of stops has more than tripled, sky rocketing from 66,000 to 196,000 stops. Supporters of Stop and Frisk might accept her findings for what they are, but will still defend the programs. And you can’t help but ask why? Because according to them, Black crime statistics are higher than white crime statistics so it makes sense to stop Black people more.
I’ve got two big issues with this misinformed notion. First, the statistics they cite are often from a very unreliable source and have little basis in reality, unlike the research conducted by people like Frasier. Second, if you go fishing for something you usually find it. Let me say it again, Black people are stopped in Milwaukee SIX TIMES more often than White people, so the crime rate for White people is low because they are never stopped or searched in the first place! Because the data shows when they are stopped and searched, they are more likely to have drugs than African-Americans.
Yet, law enforcement continues to paint Black people with a broad brush. Far too many bring misinformation and unfair stereotypes into the workplace and the results are biased application of polices like Stop and Frisk.
If the obvious flaw in the process isn’t enough to make you scratch your head, how about the constitution of the United States? It is amazing how we selectively revere the rights afforded in the constitution. When it comes to the Second Amendment right to bear arms, everyone is on board. Support for the Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, waivers on whom it is applied. Furthering the problem is the fact that in Milwaukee, police don’t even have to document frisks. So, how do we monitor, review and fix a problem that is not accurately reported?
Race and ethnicity should never be factors in the decision to stop and or search someone. Not only does this process not make any sense, it encourages a self-fulfilling prophecy of stigma and is unconstitutional at its core.