A cop explains why stop-and-frisk works

Officer Martin McFadden was on a foot post in a commercial area of Cleveland, Ohio when he noticed two men standing on a street corner.  From his concealed position, McFadden watched as one of the men walked to a retail store, stopped to look in the window, turned around, and walked back to join the other man.  The other man walked over to the same store, looked in, and then rejoined his friend.  Officer McFadden watched as the men repeated the action about a dozen times individually before both headed toward the store together.  McFadden confronted the men and asked for identification.  When they hesitated, he patted down their clothing and removed a gun from each of them.  They were arrested and charged with illegally carrying concealed weapons.

The aforementioned scenario happened on October 31, 1963.  The men arrested were John Terry and Richard Chilton.  During the trial, Terry's lawyer made a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that the "frisk" by which McFadden had discovered the gun was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  The trial judge denied his motion on the basis that "stop-and-frisk" was generally presumed legal, and Terry was convicted.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which, on June 10, 1968, issued an 8-1 decision against Terry, upholding the constitutionality of the stop-and-frisk procedure as long as the police officer performing it has a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is about to commit a crime, has committed a crime, or is committing a crime and may be "armed and presently dangerous."

I was a rookie cop in New York City during the 1960s, and back then, stop-and-frisk didn't have a national name; it was just part of a cop's job to react during circumstances that, motivated by his street savvy, appeared suspicious.  Thousands of guns, knives, blackjacks, and numerous other weapons were taken off the streets during a typical year in many large urban areas.  Although it's impossible to know how many crimes were prevented by stop-and-frisk situations, one thing is clear: the streets were safer when thugs knew they could end up in a cell if they were caught carrying illegal weapons.

Sometime during the early 1970s, NYC officials decided to design a stop-and-frisk form to be filled out by cops whenever such encounters occurred.  Although the form caused more paperwork for the industrious cops, it became useful as a record of who was stopped at a particular location during a particular time.  Hence, if a crime was committed in the vicinity where a suspect had been stopped earlier, it often led to the subsequent arrest and conviction of the suspect.  Moreover, it was very likely the deterrent for a crime that was planned, but never executed, since the suspect knew he had been spotted and recorded.  Like the Terry case, in which it was obvious that the armed gunmen were "casing" the store with the intent to commit robbery, countless other crimes have been averted because of police intervention, based on their reasonable suspicion.

Fast-forward to 2020, and we have a former NYC mayor running for President, doing a mea culpa regarding the stop-and-frisk procedure that was used during his tenure, notwithstanding the fact that stats reveal that it substantially reduced crime.  Bloomberg said it was discriminatory because it was used more often against blacks than whites.  Here's where a bit of logical reasoning is needed.  If there is much more crime in predominantly black neighborhoods, isn't it sensible to conclude that more blacks will be subject to the procedure?  I suppose that, in this politically correct culture on steroids, cops in white areas could randomly stop whites and question them in order to create a balance.

The point is that cops are most useful to society when they use their experience to take as many bad guys off the street as possible before they hurt or kill the good guys.  During a saner time in our history, that was so sensible that no one would question it.  Not anymore!  Whether it's women and children being whisked off the streets and thrown into vans by sex-traffickers, drugs being sold in broad daylight, or the "knockout game" putting innocent people in hospitals or morgues, thugs are no longer afraid of being stopped by law enforcement.  When that fear was removed, it became open season on the average man or woman, with no defense against the violent beasts of prey hovering over them.

I know it's been said many times, but it bears repeating that the police are the only defense we have against those beasts.  If we continue making them ineffective, we won't be safe inside or outside our homes.  Residents of the inner cities already live in fear.  How long before suburban and rural residents are similarly terrified?

By the way, we often hear that we need to hire more cops.  I disagree!  Every police department has a trained army, ready to defend us.  All we need to do is let them do what they were trained for.

Photo credit: File photo by 920th Rescue Wing

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