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Stop-and-frisk policy should be abandoned

The most extraordinary thing about the long saga of the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practice has been the logical fallacy that its supporters, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, have consistently offered to justify this racist constitutional abortion. They say that if the practice is abandoned, violent crime will shoot up like a rocket.

In logic, one learns that there is the classic fallacy called “post hoc ergo propter hoc.” It means that when something notable happens after a prior thing, the prior thing must be the cause of the latter thing. Thus, Bloomberg and Kelly and many media characters in New York City assure us that stop-and-frisk and the NYPD’s data-driven CompStat program are the sole reasons for the city’s historic declines in crime since the mid-1990s.

The most learned experts on crime and violence have come to no definitive conclusion as to why crime has been in decline through most of the United States over the past two decades. They certainly don’t think that any particular police tactic explains it. And many feel that the NYPD’s hugely influential tactics have been taking American law enforcement in a terribly wrong direction.

Crime is a terrible thing. But American society suffers more greatly and insidiously from racism, especially when it is perpetrated by powerful government agencies like the police. Judge Shira Scheindlin’s historic decision in Floyd v. City of New York should be taken for what it is: an opportunity to confront crime in a constitutional and race-neutral manner.

Most interestingly, in all the press commentary I’ve read and heard since Scheindlin’s decision, no one has asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo what he has to say about this historic development.

Terry O’Neill

Director, Constantine Institute