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Paper #2 – Forth Amendment protections and stop and frisk policies
Forth Amendment Rights
The stop-and frisk policy can be defined as a brief and non-intrusive police stop of a suspect (Stop and frisk, n.d.). However, the Fourth Amendments requires that before a police officer stops a suspect they need to have a valid reason for doing so. (Stop and frisk, n.d.) They cannot stop someone for no reason and they need to have a reasonable reason such as suspecting that the person is armed or dangerous. During this stop the police officer is able to frisk the suspect or in other words, give a quick pat down of the suspect’s outer clothing. The term stop and frisk derived from the court case Terry v. Ohio and is also known as the Terry Stop (Stop and frisk, n.d.)
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In the Terry v Ohio case, it was being questioned whether the Fourth Amendment had been violated. A police officer encountered Terry and two other men who seemed to be suspicious and believe to be “casing a job, a stick-up” (Terry v Ohio, n.d.). The officer then stopped and frisked the three men where he then found concealed weapons under their clothing. Terry was sentenced to three years in jail after being convicted for carrying a concealed weapon (Terry v Ohio, n.d.). That is when stop and frisk began to be questioned whether it violated the Fourth Amendment in this case. The court in this case held in a 8-1 decisions that the officer was not violating the Fourth Amendment because the officer acted on more than a “hunch” that the men were suspicious and warranted that Terry could be armed which presented a threat to the officer as he approached the mean (Terry v Ohio, n.d.).
Another case that involved a stop and frisk that violated the Fourth Amendment was Rodriguez v United States. A police stop that exceeds the time it needs to handle to reason for the stop is violating the protection under the constitution against unreasonable seizures. In this particular case a police officer completed his stop and frisk stop and then had his police dog sniff the suspect which then violated the Fourth Amendment and the court found the evidence found by the search dog subject to the exclusionary rule and excluded from trial because it was after the Terry stop (Stop and frisk, n.d.) However, in the Utah v Strieff case the court stated that if a police officer finds a “valid, pre-existing, and untainted arrest warrant” of a suspect, then any evidence found during a Terry stop was able to be admissible in court even if it violated the Fourth Amendment. (Stop and frisk, n.d.) This case also referenced an in earlier ruling in the court case Brown v Illinois. In this case the court stated that the evidence “obtained by the exploitation of an illegal arrest” is not admissible (Stop and frisk, n.d.).
In my opinion I wouldn’t have the police use stop and frisk unless they are actually arresting a person for a crime. I don’t think they should be stopped and frisked for just a “hunch” that a person could be suspicious. The reason I wouldn’t have police use this policy is because I can see this policy be easily abused by police officers or target people of minority communities without reasonable cause. It is the job of the police officers to protect their communities and with this policy I feel that it could be easy for them to abuse it and terrorize their communities. In reading the court cases Terry v Ohio it seemed to me that the stop and frisk policy was constitutional because of what the officer thought the men were going to do something illegal and he thought they were a threat. It seems to be that the policy is constitutional in certain circumstances. I think that there is a fine line on how the officer handles the situation that makes it either unconstitutional or constitutional. That is why I don’t think it is a flawed policy because it is very easy for an officer to misjudge a citizen and then assume they’re suspicious and stop and frisk them. That doesn’t seem just to the members of the community.
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During the 1990’s police were greatly impacted by the broken windows theory and remained through the 21st century (McKee, n.d.). The application of the theory was noticed heavily in New York City under Police Commissioner William Bratton. He believed that the aggressive order-maintenance practices of the New York Police Department were the reason crime rates were decreasing during the 1990s. Before the implementation of the Broken Window Theory, police focused on primarily serious crimes such as rape, murder, and robbery (McKee, n.d.). However, Wilson and Kelling had a different point of view as to how crime should be prioritized. They believe that serious crimes were a result of a chain of smaller crimes and events so they thought that if the disorder of smaller crimes were eliminated it wouldn’t lead to bigger crimes (McKee, n.d.) However, there were critics of the of disorder stating that they’re isn’t valid evidence linking that disorder that wasn’t taken care of would lead to serious crimes.
In my opinion I can see how the Broken Windows Theory could be seen as a good way to lower crime rates. It makes sense that if police control disorganization in communities and prioritized small crimes then it would lower the crime rates of murder, rape, and theft. However, I found that there isn’t solid evidence for this theory to work. It has been found that police misuse the policy and are often handing out citations for residents for minor offenses that are known as blue summonses. Officers are rewarded with better assignments and overtime if they rack up high numbers of summonses (“The Problem with ‘Broken Windows’ Policing, n.d.). This lead to a bad relationship with minority communities and do really little to reduce crime. It really puts a strain on the criminal justice system and it also burdens people with low incomes with fines for very minor offenses which I think does more harm to the community than good. (“The Problem with ‘Broken Windows’ Policing, n.d.). Overall I think that they broken window theory and the stop and frisk policy don’t have a positive correlation with reducing crime but instead worsens the relationships with communities. An alternative to these policies and strategies is to the opposite. It is better to have a strong connection with the community to help make them feel safe and that police officers are following the guidelines of their jobs and not abusing their power. An example of this is by using focused deterrence that was developed by criminologist David M. Kennedy. The strategy of focused deterrence was the reason there was a dramatic decline in homicide rates in the 1990s in Boston (“Beyond Stop-and-Frisk”, 2012). Instead of police sweeping through and stopping large amounts of people they instead built strong relationships with their communities and collaborated to go after the real bad guys (“Beyond Stop-and-Frisk”, 2012). It is really important that the members of the community take care of one another and I feel because of that and the strong connection with the police they were able to make their neighborhoods a lot safer.
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