How Wrong the Right Was on Stop-and-Frisk

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NYPD graduation ceremony, June 2014.

Diana Robinson/Mayoral Photography Office

NYPD graduation ceremony, June 2014.

Conservative media have spent years pushing misleading claims that the New York City Police Department’s intrusive and discriminatory stop-and-frisk policy was crucial to reducing local crime. Over the last year that argument, never credible, has completely unraveled. Policy reforms led to a steep drop in NYPD stops in 2014 (down to a quarter of the 2013 rate), but crime is still falling and murder rates are likely to hit a record low.

NYPD has been implementing major changes to the controversial program since federal judge ruled that the department’s approach of stopping, questioning, and frisking “suspicious” pedestrians was unconstitutionally discriminatory because hundreds of thousands of stops were conducted without any legal justification and young black and Hispanic men were disproportionately targeted.

Despite a lack of evidence to demonstrate the intrusive policy’s effectiveness, right-wing media personalities have spent years railing against reasonable reforms. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly [[has]] said that ending the policy would be “madness” and repeatedly claimed that an “unintended consequence” of reducing the police stops “could be death.” The Daily News editorial board warned that if the program were reformed, “the body count will start rising,” and the New York Post editorial board has consistently argued that decreasing stops would end in “mayhem” and “the blood of new crime victims.”

But the latest crime statistics dramatically undermine these claims.

This year, NYPD is on track to conduct 75 percent fewer stops than in 2013, yet new statistics that show overall crime rates in New York City have declined 7.9 percent for the months of August, September, and October to the lowest level the city has seen since 1994. The Daily News reports that the city’s shooting rate has slowed and that New York “is also on a record-low pace for murders and burglaries.”

The bloody predictions of conservative media haven’t materialized—but it remains to be seen whether journalists who pushed those claims will acknowledge this fact.