Skip to comments.Is Today the Beginning of the End of America’s ‘Tough on Crime’ Policies
Posted on 08/12/2013 9:24:42 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Fifty years from now, when college students read about the history of Americas criminal-justice system, August 12, 2013 may turn out to be one of those watershed moments: a day when America took a hard look at the human costs of its criminal-justice policies and began to reverse course.
This morning, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin delivered her decision in Floyd, et. al. vs. the City of New York, in which she blasted the NYPDs practice of stopping-and-frisking people and ordered the appointment of an independent monitor. Meanwhile, in California, Attorney General Eric Holder announced this afternoon that the Justice Department will be taking a less punitive approach to dealing with drug offenders.
The timing is coincidental but theres no doubt that each chips away at Americas longtime love affair with tough-on-crime policies, pushing the pendulum back in the other direction and raising questions about what, exactly, these policies have cost us.
In the long-running battle over stop-and-frisk, Scheindlins decision is not too surprising to anyone who spent time in her courtroom listening to her lambaste the citys attorneys during the nine-week Floyd trial. Her decision affirmed what a handful of NYPD whistleblowers have long been saying: that their bosses pushed them so hard to meet quotas (or performance goals, in NYPD parlance) that they and their fellow officers felt pressured to make illegal stops to stop people even when they had no reasonable suspicion that the person had committed (or was about to commit) a crime.
As a veteran cop explained it to me, We cant just stop everybody. And thats what theyre teaching the new guys to do: Just stop everybody Just to get the numbers. Thats it. Doesnt matter. Just get the numbers. The number of street stops officers made skyrocketed between 2002 and 2011: from a total of 97,296 stops a year to 685,724. The overwhelming majority of the people stopped were African-American or Latino. And in most cases nearly 90 percent the cops didnt hand out a summons or make an arrest.
The most powerful evidence at the trial may have been the tape recordings made by NYPD whistleblowers Adrian Schoolcraft, Adhyl Polanco, and Pedro Serrano. Each taped their bosses at great risk to their own careers. And, in the end, their efforts paid off. The three officers recordings provide a rare window into how the NYPDs policies are actually carried out, Scheindlin wrote in her decision. I give great weight to the contents of these recordings. Parsing the exchanges captured on the recordings, she concluded: The NYPD maintains two different policies related to racial profiling in the practice of stop and frisk: a written policy that prohibits racial profiling and requires reasonable suspicion for a stop and another, unwritten policy that encourages officers to focus their reasonable-suspicion-based stops on the right people, the right time, the right location.
She calls this policy indirect racial profiling because, she says, it leads to the disproportionate stopping of the members of any racial group that is heavily represented in the NYPDs crime suspect data. Her order today does not abolish the NYPDs practice of stop and frisk, but instead appoints an independent monitor to ensure that police officers only make stops that are constitutional.
Meanwhile, at the annual conference of the American Bar Association in San Francisco, Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the Justice Department will be changing its approach to dealing with low-level drug offenders, so that fewer of them will be subjected to mandatory-minimum prison sentences.
This idea of punishing drug offenders with mandatory sentences based on the weight of the drugs involved not whether they were a first-time courier or a major kingpin started 40 years ago in New York State. On January 3, 1973, when Governor Nelson Rockefeller gave his annual state-of-the-state speech in Albany, he pushed for a new approach to stamping out drugs: life sentences for drug sellers.
His announcement marked a major reversal; at the time, the preferred approach to addressing the drug problem was treatment. Even Rockefellers staff was against his tough-on-drugs idea. But Rockefeller pushed ahead with one eye on the Oval Office and convinced legislators to pass a slightly less punitive version, featuring mandatory prison sentences of fifteen years to life.
Rockefellers idea spread like wildfire through the country: Almost every state and the federal government adopted their own mandatory minimums, helping to fuel a massive prison expansion. Today, the U.S. has the worlds highest incarceration rate; our jails and prisons hold 2.2 million people.
Four decades after Rockefellers speech in Albany, Holder is beginning the process of reckoning with the legacy of locking up so many of our fellow citizens or, as he put it in his speech today, reckoning with the vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration [that] traps too many Americans, while admitting that many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem rather than alleviate it.
Both Scheindlins decision and Holders speech seem to send the same message: Our nations myopic approach to crime control our single-minded obsession with tough-on-crime policies needs to stop. No longer can we afford to ignore the human cost of our own criminal justice system, whether its the impact on the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who endured illegal street stops, or all the low-level drug offenders now sitting in prisons with steep sentences.
Todays low-crime era seems perfectly suited for a new approach to crime control. For years, politicians were loathe to lobby for less punitive crime policies, lest they be labeled soft on crime. Today Holder jettisoned the old phrase tough on crime, replacing it instead with smart on crime. Perhaps this slogan will stick, and instead of fear-driven crime policies, well wind up with a criminal-justice system that is more fair, that no longer robs some citizens of their constitutional rights or locks them up with unjust sentences in the name of public safety.
And so the perpetual tension continues. I think it’s better this discussion keeps alive even if sometimes it ends up in the wrong place. Because the same discussion can correct it later, as we place trust in the Lord... and that is the key, to really MEAN it again when we say “IN GOD WE TRUST.” It ain’t a pride thing unless of course we mean the elevation of God’s glory, then we can brag every bit as much as we want... on Him, that is.
What surprises me is that 90% number. That means 10% of stops resulted in a summons or arrest?.
The question is were they making up stuff, or were they legitimate summons and arrests? Because if they are legitimate, any kind of sting that arrests 1 in 10 seems like to me is a good sting.
If 1 in 10 results in an arrest or summons, is that an unreasonable search and seizure?
While I frown theologically on stings, because that’s to play Satan (I say let Satan take the heat, don’t volunteer ourselves) I don’t see “Stings” here... color me puzzled?
I believe we could do a better job with crime control if we brought back the gallows and “Old Sparky”.
No more 20 year waits for an execution. Get it done within 30 days, but allow clemency in extenuating circumstances.
One thing, I would like to see, is a limited Federal Big Brother program. Yeah, I said it. Might as well call it what it is.
Limit it to the 4 highest crime rate cities in America. Saturate the city with cameras. Maybe even use a few drones. But dramatically clean up the city’s crime in the course of 1 year.
Simultaneously run stings against the local and state officials and law enforcement. Seriously, if the crime is that bad, what’s the odds that Law Enforcement isn’t corrupt too.
Establish crime benchmarks. If not enough progress has been made, continue the program for 1 more year. Otherwise move on to another high crime city. 2 Years max.
But of course we need to either wait for a new admistration or have multiple redundant controls to keep the current admin from focusing it on tea party members. Probably both.
I would say, make it a state program, but if the state hasn’t deal with the crime by now, then let the Feds do it.
Taking away our guns. Taking away our right to self defense and going easy on druggies, dealers, rapists, murderers and thieves. This is going to end ugly. Good luck with that America. Elect a bunch of Chicago street thugs, gangstas and crooks and that’s the kind of government you’re going to get.
There will not be any easy answer, because as our ability to determine truth improves, it takes longer to pass through the requisite steps. I’m getting more on the side of the abolitionists, with the giant caveat that we need to get closer to God too as we do that. Otherwise all we are doing is juggling the chaos.
As a radio program host said this morning, over the period in question, they stop 8 million but they catch 700,000+ bad actors.
I would be interested in stopping the crimes of the federal government, such as Fast and Furious, the IRS, the FEC, the FCC.
Personally, I would start with local law enforcement and city leadership. Chances are someone, most likey a Dem Mayor, council member, etc, has told the Chief to stop arresting the feral black youth.
You do realize crime has dropped dramatically in the last 25 years?
I don’t see where there were “sting” operations involved here. As I see it, the police would see a thug looking individual walking down the street. However, other than he looks like a thug, he isn’t drunk or on drugs, he isn’t on a be on the lookout list or suspected of committing a crime, and isn’t causing any problems. But the police stop him, frisk him, and find contraband. It all goes back to probable cause. I suspected that eventually, a judge would call the NYPD on it. Am I wrong here?
Great idea disarm the police.
More proof we need the 2nd Amendment and Stand your Ground.
There is no justification for “stop & frisk”; when Rudy Giuliani wanted to clean up NYC, he simply told the cops to enforce even the minor laws. Often the dirtbag you arrested for urinating on the sidewalk turned out to have warrants for more serious crimes outstanding; it was effective, unquestionably legal, and racially neutral.
You're just dying to give up your rights aren't you? Read the 4th amendment. There has to be probably cause just to get a warrant, the person and place to be searched must be named and what they are looking for must be named also. Yes, stopping people at random and searching them is a blatant violation of the 4th amendment.
BTW, there is nothing in the constitution that gives LEOs the right to search you, your car or your home or business simply by saying they had probable cause. Probable cause is for getting a warrant, not conduction a search, but we gave up that right many years ago by not fighting that type of BS.
>>>>I dont see where there were sting operations involved here. As I see it, the police would see a thug looking individual walking down the street. However, other than he looks like a thug, he isnt drunk or on drugs, he isnt on a be on the lookout list or suspected of committing a crime, and isnt causing any problems. But the police stop him, frisk him, and find contraband. It all goes back to probable cause. I suspected that eventually, a judge would call the NYPD on it. Am I wrong here?>>>
That’s why I never get picked for jury duty. In the case above I don’t care what the perp was caring because I’d say Not Guilty due to no probable cause, and if I could I’d order the state to pay the defense expenses.
No, that happened the day Holder got appointed or perhaps earlier when odumbo got elected.
“Great idea disarm the police.”
The Supreme Court ruled, back in the early 70s, that they have ZERO duty/obligation to protect you anyway. Their guns are to protect their OWN lives while enforcing whatever arbitrary Diktats of Der Staat happen to be in vogue at the moment.
When I think society hits the lowest common denominator (LCM) somehow it goes even lower.
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