Stop-and-Frisk Is Not Constitutional


Stop-and-frisk is a policy that is common in many nations across the world. In some of countries, the act is constitutional, while in others, it is unconstitutional. Frisking is defined as a search that is conducted on a person (Ritchie & Mogul, 2007). Stopping is an act of preventing a person from moving in order to conduct a search. In fact, when a search is authorized, the method is called stop-and-frisk (Ritchie & Mogul, 2007). Arguably, for a search to be justified, the administrators of justice should provide particular facts that offer reasonable evidence that an individual is about to commit a crime. Thus, in case there is a reasonable doubt that a suspect possesses a dangerous weapon that is harmful to law enforcers, or other people, then police officers are allowed to frisk his or her outer garments (Ritchie & Mogul, 2007).

It is important to point out that despite the fact that a frisk would be allowed, it must focus on discovering a dangerous weapon. The act is associated with New York City (Harcourt, 2004). However, it has been noted that many law enforcers are conducting unconstitutional stop and frisk, implying that their frisks are not aimed at discovering dangerous weapons, but harassing citizens (Harcourt, 2004). Therefore, it is important to discuss various literature reviews that discuss stop-and-frisk as an unconstitutional act. This paper concentrates on discussing stop-and-frisk that is not constitutional with regard to its history, evolution, and its future trends. The study findings will have important implications for governments and citizens in various states.

Scope of the study

As noted in the introduction, this study concentrates on examining stop-and-frisk that is illegal. It reviews recent police reports from various police stations for the three quarters of 2014. In addition, it has constructed a survey that has been filled by criminals who have had encounters with stop-and-frisk with the aim of obtaining data that are critical to understanding how law enforcers influence stop-and-frisk among different races. Data were analyzed and recorded in a table. In addition, it provides a critical analysis of literature that has been identified in previous studies, which go a long way in establishing a conceptual framework.

Literature review

In a study conducted by Harcourt (2004) to investigate the effectiveness of stop and frisk, researchers utilized information from the department of personnel and criminology. The study revealed that 89% of the population were innocent (Harcourt, 2004). The innocent population constituted the 50% black, 32% Latino, and 10% white. In addition, the study indicated that 54% were aged between 24 and 26 (Harcourt, 2004). From the study, it is clear that most of frisking that is conducted in the USA is done to the blacks. The study also showed that the young are the ones who are suspected of committing crimes and carrying materials that are harmful to both people and police officers. According to Harcourt (2004), most police officers use force when conducting searches among the youth to ensure that they provide the relevant information that is related to stopping and frisking. Moreover, the method of conducting stop-and-frisk is not constitutional for the reason that a lot of force is applied when stopping and searching the individuals. This study is critical to the topic under study because it focuses on highlighting how innocent people are subjected to stop and search.

In the same year, Harcourt (2004) conducted a research to investigate unconstitutional search policies and the responsibilities of every citizen in relation to the issue under study. The scholar utilized reports from the police department and analyzed data (Harcourt, 2004). It was noted that most policies that law enforcers rely on when executing their duties of stopping and frisking persons are unconstitutional. This is for the reason that most police officers have racial biases, and instead of targeting criminals, they aim at preventing people from particular races, justifying that they are unconstitutional. Moreover, the scholar indicated that every citizen has a role to play in order to promote stop-and-frisk that is illegal (Harcourt, 2004). According to Harcourt (2004), any citizen who is searched without his or her consent should report to the relevant authority. This is aimed at mitigating cases of biases among suspects. Nonetheless, it is also essential to the topic under study.

This study is supported by Fyfe (2004), who conducted a research to investigate the most affected race by a stop-and-frisk approach that is carried out by police, especially at the entry and exit points along the USA borders. The researcher used a focal concern theoretical approach that indicated that in 2004, 98% of persons who were frisked were innocent. The black people constituted the largest number of about 60%, followed by the Latino, who represented 34% (Fyfe, 2004). The white were the least and was comprised of 12%. The results also indicated that the young were more in the group that was stopped and frisked. It is evident that the number is increasing and the young people are the ones frisked more than the elderly (Fyfe, 2004). Moreover, most of the searches conducted in that year were unconstitutional for the reason that there were no explicit and articulate facts for conducting the frisks. Notably, the study is critical to the topic under study because it has cited that many of the stop and frisks that are carried out by police are unconstitutional and target a particular race.

Carbado (2005) conducted a study to find out if stop-and-frisk in the USA has any impacts on particular groups of people. The researcher constructed a survey that was filled by those who had encountered them. The scholar found that most of them target particular races with the blacks constituting the largest number (Carbado, 2005). This study is crucial for the topic under study because it focuses on examining the effects stop-and-frisk on particular races.

In a survey conducted by Tyler (2011) to trace the origin of stop and frisk, and its evolution process, the researcher indicated that it started in New York City, but spread to other cities later. The policy was significant at the beginning, but then it was abused (Tyler, 2011). Since its inception, it has continued to be used and most of the times, it has been critical in preventing dangerous weapons from entering the states (Tyler, 2011). As indicated by the scholar, the knowledge about its evolution is relevant to the topic.

Harris (2006) conducted a research to find out the history, current, and the future trends of stop and frisk. The scholar used time and space approach, whereby he or she demonstrated that the amount of force increased at nights and early mornings. In addition, the researcher found that many of the stop-and-frisk acts conducted targeted black people (Harris, 2006). It was also revealed that when the policy was introduced the numbers was not as big as it is currently. In addition, the findings indicated that the number of arrested criminals was increasing (Harris, 2006). It was evident from the study that there was a possibility of reduction in crime rate if stop-and-frisk would be done constitutionally.

A study was conducted by Gelman, Fagan and Kiss (2007) to find out whether searches are carried out in line with the constitution. The researchers used neighborhood context and threat approaches to investigate the use of force in the area that was occupied by the minority blacks (Gelman et al., 2007). The researchers found that out of 564, 465 persons that were stopped, 88% of them were innocent and the black constituted the largest percentage of 58. The Latino constituted 32% and the whites 10% (Gelman et al., 2007). Nonetheless, the young represented 52%. From this study, it is correct to state that most of the frisks that have been conducted have racial biases. The youths are the most affected. It is important to note that this study is relevant to the topic under study because it is investigating whether stop-and-frisk in New York is constitutional or not.

However, it is worth to indicate that stop-and-frisk is essential in reducing crime rates in many countries around the world. This fact is supported by Weisburd, Telep and Lawton (2014) who have argued that stop-and-frisk has been crucial in mitigating crime rates in New York City. The researchers did not base their study on any framework, but wanted to gain more insights regarding the effects of stop-and-frisk on crime rate reduction (Weisburd et al., 2014). The researchers found that the act has instilled fear among criminal who become afraid of hiding any illegal weapon because they know that they would be frisked and charged in a court of law (Weisburd et al., 2014). According to Weisburd and colleagues (2014), cases of stopping, questioning, and frisking individuals have led to declining crime rates. Notably, due to an unexpected stop, many criminals have developed fear, leading to decrease in illegal activities. Many frisks that have been conducted are in line with the constitution (Weisburd et al., 2014). The study focuses on evaluating the trends of stop-and-frisk in New York City. Thus, it is vital to the issue being investigated.


In this study, the scholar focused on analyzing stop-and-frisk acts that are not constitutional. The researcher collected information from reports in police departments for the three quarters of 2014. The data were combined with others from the department of personnel information. This aimed at comparing the data to get better insights in relation to stopping and frisking in New York. A sample population included all those persons who encountered stop-and-frisk acts in New York City. They were referenced in relation to the type of crime each individual had committed in order to yield the correct results. The researcher came up with a survey that was filled by police departments for three weeks after every arrest was made. This was meant to gather information regarding the use of force during stop-and-frisk. The data were vital in answering questions, such as whether the application of force during stop-and-frisk was higher among non-whites than whites in New York City. Moreover, it focused on both independent and dependent variables. The independent variables were race of the officers, the race of suspects, suspect’s level of resistance, and the study time. The dependent variable was the application of force during stop and frisk.


The hypothesis was stop-and-frisk is not constitutional. This was based on the fact that many police officers apply force to suspects without evidence that they have anything illegal, or done anything wrong.


From the study, it is evident that the non-whites are the most affected. Significantly, the race of a suspect and that of a police officer are critical to the amount of force applied to suspects. Moreover, due to racial discrimination, the majority of defendants who are stopped and frisked are innocent. this is evident from both this study and other studies that have been conducted. Notably, time is insignificant with regard to the amount of force applied. The hypothesis is supported by the research study. Most of the individuals who have encountered stop-and-frisk are young (aged between 19 and 24). The table below summarizes the findings of the research.

Figure1. A table summarizing the number of suspects who have encountered stop-and-frisk acts

Race Number of arrested persons and percentage
Total number (66,465)
Innocent 64,675 (97)
Whites 2100 (2%)
Latino 2900 (4%)
Blacks 60,175 (90%)

Note that suspects are aged between 19 and 24. They were arrested between 21hours and 0100hours.


In conclusion, stop-and-frisk policy is unconstitutional and should be eliminated. From the discussion above, it is correct to state that police officers target a particular race while conducting their search. Despite the fact that some researchers have indicated that they reduce criminal activities by instilling fear, many scholars claim that the blacks are targeted and law enforcers use force particularly at night when there is nobody on lookout. It is critical to state that the hypothesis is strongly supported. This is for the reason that the suspects do not have any help at night. Crimes, such as drug trafficking and trade in dangerous weapons have been the most sort of acts that are attributed to stop and frisk. The majority of the suspects are persons who are under 25. However, some studies have demonstrated that many of the legal officers do not practice discrimination, but focus on eliminating the criminal activities. This variation is attributed to the fact that different scholars have utilized different methods at different time in collecting data and analyzing them. For example, some researchers did not use any framework to base their arguments. The unavailability of data that were employed could have contributed to the disparities in the results. It is also recommended that the study should form the basis for further research. Thus, from the current study and other studies, it would be right to state that stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional. In fact, governments and non-governmental bodies should inform citizens that the act is illegal and should, therefore, not be conducted. Many law enforcers perform searches on people with the aim of harassing them or taking valuable items from them. Police officers should be educated on the negative impacts of stopping and searching people at random. In fact, some persons develop fear that would persist in the long-term.


Carbado, D. W. (2005). Racial naturalization. American Quarterly, 57(3), 633-658.

Fyfe, J. J. (2004). Stops, frisks, searches, and the constitution. Criminology & Public Policy, 3(3), 379-396.

Gelman, A., Fagan, J., & Kiss, A. (2007). An analysis of the New York City police department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy in the context of claims of racial bias. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 102(479), 456-465.

Harcourt, B. E. (2004). Rethinking racial profiling: A critique of the economics, civil liberties, and constitutional literature, and of criminal profiling more generally. The University of Chicago law review, 4(5), 1275-1381.

Harcourt, B. E. (2004). Unconstitutional police searches and collective responsibility. Criminology & Public Policy, 3(3), 363-378.

Harris, D. A. (2006). US experiences with racial and ethnic profiling: History, current issues, and the future. Critical Criminology, 14(3), 213-239.

Ritchie, A. J., & Mogul, J. L. (2007). In the Shadows of the War on Terror: Persistent Police Brutality and Abuse of People of Color in the United States. DePaul J. Soc. Just., 1(2), 175-189.

Tyler, T. R. (2011). Trust and legitimacy: Policing in the USA and Europe. USA Journal of Criminology, 8(4), 254-266.

Weisburd, D., Telep, C. W., & Lawton, B. A. (2014). Could innovations in policing have contributed to the New York City crime drop even in a period of declining police strength?: The case of stop, question and frisk as a hot spots policing strategy. Justice Quarterly, 31(1), 129-153.

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