“W

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE -

e need law and or­der,” Don­ald Trump said when asked dur­ing Mon­day night’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate about how to im­prove race re­la­tions in this coun­try. What he meant by that was that po­lice should en­gage vig­or­ously in tac­tics like “stop-and-frisk” searches in which of­fi­cers pat down peo­ple on the street to look for drugs or weapons, typ­i­cally on lit­tle pre­text. That, he in­sisted, is the only ef­fec­tive way to keep peo­ple safe in the in­ner city. “When it comes to stop-and-frisk, you know, [it] takes guns away,” Mr. Trump said. “Well, I’m talk­ing about tak­ing guns away from gangs and peo­ple that use them. ... Stop-and-frisk had a tremen­dous im­pact on the safety of New York City. Tremen­dous be­yond be­lief.”

Post-de­bate fact-check­ers quickly cleared up a cou­ple of in­ac­cu­ra­cies in Mr. Trump’s de­scrip­tion of stop-and-frisk. In­deed, a fed­eral judge ruled that the tac­tic as prac­ticed in New York City was un­con­sti­tu­tional — though Mr. Trump was right that Mayor Bill DeBla­sio de­clined to pur­sue an ap­peal. And Hil­lary Clin­ton was right: Vi­o­lent crime in New York has con­tin­ued to drop since Mr. DeBla­sio ended stop-and-frisk.

But the big lie about stop-and-frisk is that it is ef­fec­tive ei­ther as a tac­tic for get­ting guns off the streets or as part of a strat­egy to make a city safer. Our ex­pe­ri­ence in Bal­ti­more makes clear just how in­im­i­cal it is to good po­lice work and just how cor­ro­sive it is in terms of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween po­lice and the com­mu­nity.

The use of stop-and-frisk in New York ex­ploded un­der for­mer Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ris­ing from un­der 100,000 en­coun­ters in 2001, the year be­fore he took of­fice, to more than 685,000 in 2011. That year, 87 per­cent of those stopped were black or His­panic, groups that make up only about half of the city’s pop­u­la­tion. Crime did drop in New York dur­ing that pe­riod, but not as much as it did in other cities, like Los An­ge­les, that did not en­gage in the prac­tice. The Cen­ter for Con­sti­tu­tional Rights, which brought the stop-and-frisk law­suit, re­sponded yes­ter­day to Mr. Trump’s claims and noted that po­lice re­ported about 106,000 ma­jor felonies in New York in 2011. In 2015, the last year for which sta­tis­tics are avail­able, po­lice con­ducted just 23,000 stops, yet ma­jor felonies were slightly down, to about 105,000. The city saw 515 mur­ders in 2011 but just 356 in 2015.

Part of the rea­son is that stop-and-frisk was stun­ningly in­ef­fec­tive at get­ting guns off the street. Tes­ti­mony in the stop-and-frisk law­suit re­vealed that New York po­lice con­fis­cated nearly 6,000 guns by us­ing the tac­tic over an eight-year pe­riod, but it re­quired 4.4 mil­lion stops to achieve that re­sult — mean­ing of­fi­cers found guns in about one out of every 1,000 en­coun­ters.

That sug­gests po­lice were ex­pend­ing a lot of ef­fort on a tac­tic Don­ald Trump an­swered a ques­tion about race re­la­tions with a call for “law and or­der” in Mon­day’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate. that yielded few tan­gi­ble re­sults. But Bal­ti­more’s ex­pe­ri­ence sug­gests the ef­fects of such a strat­egy can be much worse than wasted time. The Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s re­port on Bal­ti­more’s Po­lice Depart­ment found that here, like in New York, African Amer­i­cans were by far more likely to be stopped than whites, rel­a­tive to their share of the pop­u­la­tion, and that the “hit rate” for drugs or weapons in searches af­ter pedes­trian stops in Bal­ti­more was com­pa­ra­ble to that in New York — though it was sub­stan­tially higher when po­lice stopped whites than when they stopped blacks.

The ef­fect of that dis­crim­i­na­tion in Bal­ti­more, ac­cord­ing to the DOJ re­port, is a com­mon be­lief “that there is racism in law en­force­ment, un­nec­es­sary force and ver­bal abuse, an ‘us ver­sus them’ at­ti­tude among po­lice of­fi­cers, a lack of pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tions with the po­lice, and strong feel­ings of re­crim­i­na­tion, re­sent­ment, fear and mis­trust among res­i­dents.” That alien­ation and mis­trust be­tween mem­bers of the com­mu­nity and the po­lice plays di­rectly into the dif­fi­culty of­fi­cers and pros­e­cu­tors have in se­cur­ing the co­op­er­a­tion of wit­nesses, solv­ing crimes and send­ing the guilty to jail.

Mr. Trump said dur­ing the de­bate that politi­cians’ fail­ure to sup­port tac­tics like stop-and-frisk is “very un­fair” to mi­nori­ties liv­ing in in­ner cities, but the record shows pre­cisely the op­po­site. Ms. Clin­ton had it right when she ob­served, “It’s just a fact that if you’re a young African-Amer­i­can man and you do the same thing as a young white man, you are more likely to be ar­rested, charged, con­victed, and in­car­cer­ated.” The poli­cies Mr. Trump es­pouses would make that dis­par­ity worse. How he be­lieves that’s the an­swer to im­prov­ing Amer­ica’s race re­la­tions, we can­not fathom.

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