April 14, 2014 Articles

Good Stop/Bad Stop (and Frisk)

Moving past arguments that artificially pit pragmatism against idealism.

By O. Andrew F. Wilson – April 14, 2014

While the query presented by the March 2014 ABA Journal cover, “Has ‘Stop and Frisk’ Been Stopped?” readily frames the debate between its advocates and critics, this dichotomy may preclude progress in the development of stop-and-frisk policy. The police practice of “stopping and frisking” to reduce crime has led to an increasingly polarized national discussion of the balance between civil liberty and effective law enforcement. But the answer to critics of stop-and-frisk is not to “stop it”; nor can proponents of stop-and-frisk be satisfied with what appears to reign as a racially biased status quo. To advance this discussion, the question is not whether to stop-and-frisk, but whom to stop-and-frisk. In the end, the only viable stop-and-frisk policy is a constitutional one, which, as the data suggests, may also be the most effective.

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