The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

August 16, 2013

Stop-and-frisk ruling is common sense

A healthy criminal justice system — one that is simultaneously effective and fair — demands neither too much discretion nor too little. Monday’s welcome news about stop-and-frisk searches and mandatory minimum drug sentences illuminates both aspects of that moral imperative.

On the unbridled-discretion end of the spectrum, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that New York City’s aggressive stop-and-frisk program violated the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure as well as its guarantee of equal protection.

To read Scheindlin’s opinion is to feel sympathy both for the innocent targets of the unconstitutional stops and the police instructed to carry them out.

The targets are the easy part. To take just one example: Devin Almonor, a Manhattan high school student, was stopped when he was walking down a Harlem street at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, pushed onto the hood of a police car, handcuffed and taken to the precinct.

“What are you doing?” Almonor asked the officers as he was being frisked. “I’m going home. I’m a kid.”

But sympathy for the cops, who in Scheindlin’s recounting are often overeager to make stops and abusive in conducting them?

Yes, because they are both pressured from above to make stops, lots of them, and burdened with too much discretion in deciding whom to stop. Scheindlin’s opinion documents how the relentless drive for numbers trickled down from commander to rank-and-file.

When officers bothered to fill out forms justifying stops, they checked off boxes with loose justifications such as “furtive movements” or “suspicious bulge/object.” People were questioned simply because of the suspicious fact of meeting a generalized description — young black male, 18 to 24 — in a high-crime area, with scant review of whether such stops were constitutional.

Such a combination is problematic standing alone. Fold in race — blacks and Hispanics account for about half the city’s population but 83 percent of those searched — and it becomes a toxic recipe for community resentment.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Letter to the Editor: Local firefighters' union speaks out on proposed contract

    Dear citizens/taxpayers of Clinton:
    The members of Local 609 feel that it is our duty to inform the citizens of Clinton that the article titled “‘Fair offer’ differences” in the April 9, 2014 edition of the Clinton Herald was full of inaccurate statements regarding our negotiated contract proposal with the city. These incorrect statements could impact the use of your city funds negatively and unduly influence our elected representatives. So, we would like to address these points, as follows:

    April 18, 2014

  • Local firefighters' union speaks out on proposed contract Dear citizens/taxpayers of Clinton: The members of Local 609 feel that it is our duty to inform the citizens of Clinton that the article titled "'Fair offer' differences" in the April 9, 2014 edition of the Clinton Herald was full of inaccurate state

    April 18, 2014

  • The lesson of 'Camp David' The line between determination and delusion can be obscure. Sometimes, the distinction emerges only in retrospect, like a Polaroid image slowly appearing. In other instances, the difference between productive grit and self-defeating obsession is an a

    April 18, 2014

  • Wild Rose avoids another distraction Several casino operators in the state of Iowa breathed a sigh of relief Thursday when the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted 4-1 to reject a casino in Cedar Rapids. Cedar Rapids is close enough to have a possible effect on Wild Rose Casino and R

    April 18, 2014

  • Youngquist photo World Book Night celebrated April 23 The Clinton Public Library children's department plans to start a Legos club this June. We would appreciate donations of new or used Legos bricks. Please, no Duplo bricks. Drop donations at the children's desk on the second floor of the library. Root

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Walter Williams mug Equality in discipline George Leef, director of research for the North Carolina-based John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, authored a Forbes op-ed article titled "Obama Administration Takes Groupthink To Absurd Lengths." The subtitle is "School Discipline

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Reader is grateful for Iowa-American Water's help I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude to Iowa-American Water Company and its hard-working professional crew. I was without water, due to frozen pipes, for almost seven weeks. Everyone went above and beyond to get my wat

    April 17, 2014

  • 'Case Day' inspires students to aim high There's an MRCTV video circulating on the Internet that features a man with a microphone asking college students in Washington, D.C., to name just one member of the United States Senate. At least half a dozen are stumped. When he asks how many senato

    April 16, 2014

  • 4-15-14 13-Photo, Masters Bubba more than local hero? AUGUSTA, Ga. -- He plays a sexy game of golf, owns two green jackets and -- in what constitutes a show of major respect in these parts --Bubba Watson made rabid Georgia Bulldog fans take a break from spring football to watch some golf this weekend. A

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • Leonard Pitts mug ...and this is Overkill News Network Enough, already. Please, for the love of Cronkite: Give us a break from the missing plane. Yes, we all wonder what happened to it. Yes, our hearts go out to the families seeking resolution. But really, CNN ... enough. Put your hands up and step away

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

Yes
No
     View Results
Facebook