Despite its having been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge in New York City three years ago, and become a reviled symbol of overreaching police activity, Donald Trump signaled on Wednesday that he would institute a nationwide “stop-and-frisk” policy—one which would allow police to detain and pat down anyone based solely on an officer’s open-ended suspicion, rather than evidence of a specific transgression—to address crime if he’s elected president in November.
What’s more, he pushed perhaps the most infamous and controversial policing tactic of the past two decades at a Fox News-sponsored town hall in Cleveland meant to reach out to black voters. The video of the event is set to air on Wednesday night, but according to an early transcript, Trump was asked how he would address, as an audience member put it, “black-on-black” crime. (Which, bad question, but whatever.)
Of course, this being Donald Trump, there are lots of red flags in this response. The first red flag is his touting of New York City’s stop-and-frisk program. It was there, in 2013, that federal judge Shira Scheindlin found the New York Police Department’s use of the practice resulted in a “policy of indirect racial profiling” that adversely affected “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.” In other words, the policy Donald Trump thinks “was incredible, the way that worked” was, in reality, pretty racist and ultimately illegal.
And there’s lots of evidence that stop-and-frisk had no real effect on major crimes in New York City to begin with.
One of the underlying suppositions of stop-and-frisk policing is that it theoretically nips smaller crimes in the bud in order to prevent larger, more serious ones from taking place. However, an August, 2016 mea culpa by the New York Daily News editorial board—in which they admitted their earlier support for the practice was, in fact, wrong—stated that while stops in NYC dropped 97% between 2011 and 2015 (from 685,700 to 22,900) so too did the number of murders and shootings in the city as well. The absence of stops-and-frisks didn’t, in fact, result in an increase of serious crimes. (It definitely resulted in an increase of suspicion and mistrust towards police officers, however.)
This trend is echoed by the findings a June 2016 report from the NYPD Inspector General’s office, which looked at the relationship between “quality of life” policing (that is: arrests for things like small amounts of marijuana possession, or drinking alcohol in public—the sort of things a stop-and-frisk would likely uncover) and felony crimes.
“Between 2010 and 2015, quality-of-life enforcement rates—and in particular, quality-of-life summons rates—have dramatically declined,” the report stated. “But there has been no commensurate increase in felony crime.”
Donald Trump has nevertheless been a longtime proponent of the practice, tweeting in 2013 that “stop and frisk works.” Shocker: he’s wrong!
Trump’s support for stop-and-frisk policing is not too surprising, though, considering the practice was embraced by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who isnow one of Trump’s most enthusiastic and frenetic supporters on the campaign trail.
“Good policing saves lives,” Trump told a Milwaukee, WI crowd on August 16. “My dear friend, Rudy Giuliani, knows a thing or two about this. The policies put into place by Rudy ultimately brought down crime by 76 percent and murder by 84 percent.”
As the Washington Post pointed out, Trumps statistical proclamation is (unsurprisingly) fuzzy. What’s clear, though, is that in his bid to be the tough-on-crime candidate, Trump seems eager to align himself with order, at the expense of actual law.
Oh: also, he doesn’t even have the power to order random municipalities to institute stop-and-frisk, because that’s not how the presidency works. Sorry Donald!
Update: On Wednesday afternoon, current New York City mayor (and noted stop-and-frisk critic) Bill deBlasio offered his thoughts on the comments, calling into question Trump’s bona fides as a New Yorker.