When is the NYPD Stop and Frisk Policy Too Much?

An important of our criminal justice system is based on a reasonable doubt standard namely the criminal standard of proof. This legal standard of proof is used everyday in our criminal justice system as an accepted standard.

The legal standard for forcible street stops by a police officer is based on reasonable suspicion at the time of the event to detain someone. Anytime an officer is lawfully detaining someone for investigative purposes, they can also exercise their power to check a person for weapons. This level of belief is less than probable cause, which is exercised by police when making an arrest.

NYPD statistics show that a very small percentage, out of the millions of stops recorded every year, actually result in the finding of a weapon or lead to an arrest. In further breakdowns the demographics point to certain minority groups.

Looked at in isolation these statistics allude to a significant number of stops based on reasonable suspicion being not only ineffective but also racially motivated towards certain minority groups to the extent their civil liberties are violated through their right to feel secure against unreasonable searches.

However when analysed holistically, the number of stops within these minority group communities reflect the identified crime areas in which they took place. These parallel considerations are critical when analysing the effectiveness of police powers, crime prevention and safety and security for the wider community.

Have police gone beyond what they are authorised to conduct to the extent that they base their stops on suspicion less beliefs targeting minority black and Hispanic groups? We'd like to think not, however it raises the question of monitoring process to ensure constitutional rights are not being violated unnecessarily.

In the criminal justice system when the standard of proof is based on beyond a reasonable doubt it is done in such a way that judges and or jury members alongside council and their clients are all present to see how it is and has been applied to the law and facts presented. In the case of a police officer, the legal standard of reasonable suspicion is applied by their own discretion, therefore making it a far more subjective than objective process.

Therefore, will increasing the legal standard of proof for stop and frisk powers from reasonable suspicion to probable cause better ensure the constitutional rights of all Americans particularly those minority groups reflected in the statistics against unreasonably searches and seizures? or will it actually reduce the police ability to carry out the pursuit of criminals?

By raising the level of proof required to conduct a stop and frisk would result in less unreasonable searches as police would only act on probable cause and potentially change the disproportionate statics on number of conducted searches versus arrests made and ultimately add another layer of protection to American citizens constitutional rights and civil liberties.

Questions? Contact Musa-Obregon & Associates today.

Categories: Searches & Seizures
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