Saturday, April 19, 2014

NYPD: Stop-and-Frisk Policy (2014)

NYPD logo

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is one of the largest police departments in the world. With New York City having more than eight million inhabitants a large police force is needed to protect and serve the citizens. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Bratton are highly in charge with decisions and judgments that occur in the city, with the Stop-and-Frisk policy being one of their tactics they oversee. Controversy has surrounded this policy as many New Yorkers are stopped daily having their time taking away from them and more importantly their rights in some cases.
New Yorkers are dissatisfied with this policy as many think their rights are being violated and racial profiling is a huge part of the policy. The following looks at this case from different ethical perspectives (Individualism, Kantianism, Utilitarianism, and the Virtue Theory) that could either prove the point that what the NYPD is doing is unethical or justify their actions. According either of the four ethical theories, the Stop-and-Frisk is unethical in every sense. The NYPD is saying it is for the good for the people, while not realizing how much this terrorizes its citizens on a daily basis, while damaging the relationship between law enforcement and the citizens. People in the city respect law enforcement less and less as each day passes with the policy still in place.
Company BackgroundThe New York Police Department, or NYPD, began in 1845 with a force of about 800 men under the order of the first Chief of Police George W. Matsell. New York City had a form of patrol since 1625 when the sheriff-attorneys, or “Schout-fiscal” as they were called, were in charge of keeping peace, notifying colonist of nighttime fires, and settling minor disputes. Throughout the years the NYPD has increased the number of men and women in the force and has also gained responsibility all over the city. There are over 34,000 uniformed officers in the country’s largest police department, with 17,000 other employees; all ran under Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.
Statistics have shown that the NYPD use almost 15 percent of the whole city’s salary in a year. With a force bigger than the FBI, the NYPD’s proposed budget in 2013 was 4.6 billion dollars. In an interview with the mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg, he bragged that the NYPD is “7th largest army in the world.” The NYPD is not actually the size that Mayor Bloomberg exclaims but it shows relatively how big the department is. New York City population is over 8 million so it is right that there is an “army” protecting the city.
Many controversies surround the department with their practices and their actions. Many people believe the NYPD takes over the citizens’ rights and privacy with actions such as constant intrusion and surveillance. Police brutality has been linked with the NYPD as well which has many skeptics. The policy that has the most controversial conversations and is most skeptical is the Stop-and-Frisk policy.
The New York Stop-and-Frisk policy relates all the way back to 1968 in the Terry v. Ohio case which gave legal basis for officers to stop, question and frisk citizens. This policy gives Police officers to Stop-and-Frisk “suspicious” people or citizens that are “up to not good”. In 1999 was when the uproar and the controversy began about the Stop-and-Frisk policy with the Daniels, et al. v. The City of New York, et al. case. In the aftermath of the shooting of an unarmed African man a first class action lawsuit was filed against New York for what was considered an unlawful Stop-and-Frisk. It was believed police officers used racial profiling in this case which lead to the death of Amadou Diallo. In conclusion of this case the Center of Constitutional Rights wished that the court would stop with NYPD's Street Crime Unit.
This is the ongoing problem that continues today with the Stop-and-Frisk policy that people believe to be one unethical, and secondly unconstitutional. Racial profiling is what drives this policy and the numbers behind policy drives peoples arguments as well. In the NYCLU (New York Civil Liberties Union) report, 2002 is the first year where statistical data was recorded. In that year New Yorkers were stopped by the police 97,296 times while 80,176 were totally innocent. This does not even show what races or ethnicities were stopped the most but it shows how many people are being stopped that are not even doing anything wrong. There was 82 percent that were not guilty of anything and averaged out more than 250 people were stopped a day due to this policy. To fast forward a bit in time and to look at some stats about race in 2011 685,724 people were stopped by the NYPD. A staggering 88 percent were not guilty of any crime. More than it was in 2002 with a lot more stop and frisks occurring. In total 53 percent of the people stopped were blacks and 34 percent were Latinos. Only 9 percent were whites and more than 50 percent were between the ages 14-24. This proves why people can argue the fact racial profiling is a tactic with this policy.
Many people have argued this policy claiming it is unconstitutional and unethical since racial profiling is a major enforcer in the policy. However, NYPD denies claims that this is one of the tactics used for the policy. Many suspicious policy changes have occurred as well that have people feeling as if what the state is trying to cover up these claims of racial profiling to continue with stop and frisks. July 16th of 2010 Governor Paterson changed the policy so it prevents the NYPD from keeping data about people who are not guilty of anything. Could this mean that the state is just covering the data up about minorities and blacks so that the policy does not seem to be committing racial profiling? Some would say so. The crazy part about these numbers of minorities and blacks is that they make up less than 14 percent of the population of New York and are being stopped the most. May 16th of 2012 a federal judge granted a class action lawsuit against the NYPD of discriminating against blacks and Latinos with the Stop-and-Frisk policy. Right after this story came out Mayor Bloomberg immediately made a statement defending the policy stating that “This is a program that is effective. We’re going to keep doing this. … We’re not going to walk away from tactics that work”
Last year on August 12th, Judge Shira Scheindlin of the U.S. District Court decided that the NYPD had violated the Fourth and Fifth amendments. However, Mayor Bloomberg still gave his words which still supported and somewhat gave excuses to why the policy exists and how he does not believe it is a problem. Relating this to business practices and ethical theories this whole policy still is an issue in many people eyes.

NYPD cruisers
In this case the major stakeholders would be considered the mayor of the city, the commissioner of the police department. Also all the people who work for the NYPD would be considered stakeholders. The mayor and the commissioner serve as the two biggest stakeholders as they are in the spotlight getting all the pressure and attention from the city and public. They are seen as the "bad guys" is this case. Both parties seem to be in total support of the Stop-and-Frisk policy in the public eye, and they both don't seem to be budging at all when it comes to the complaints and requests of the community. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Bratton believe there is nothing wrong with the policy and believe more Stop-and-Frisks should occur given a bad rep to the rest of the stakeholders as we'll. Also the pressure provided by these two major stakeholders forces the other stakeholders, like uniformed officers, follow the policy and continue with applying the policy to the city. Lastly, the whole city of New York can be seen as stakeholders, since it is their city. The population is what makes the city what it is so they have some say or are affected by the policy.

The first ethical theory is Individualism by a man named Milton Friedman who is a renowned economist of the twentieth century. Friedman states "The only goal of business is to profit, so the only obligation that the business person has is to maximize profit for the owner or the stockholders.” The stakeholders in this case would be the NYPD and those who work throughout the department. Since this case is not about money, profits are measured by the gains and or loses made by each stop made by the policy and how the policy is viewed by the public. The NYPD does not gain much from this policy as seen through the numbers stated previously that most people are not found guilty of anything. Sure the policy will have some success on bringing some criminals off the streets but it creates more of an uproar within the city and communities and that helps no one out. The only justification individualism could support the actions by the Mayor and the Commissioner is that what they are doing is technically lawful. They are not breaking any law since they are the law. Racial profiling could be denied by officers and the two major stakeholders but it is apparent to most what really is going on. This leads to the next ethical theory which is Kantianism.

NYPD officers on duty

The Kantian Theory claims that "our fundamental ethical duty is to treat people with respect, to treat them as equally capable of living an autonomous life. But since each person has this same fundamental duty towards each other’s, each of us can be said to have the rights to be treated with respect, the right to be treated as an end and never as a means only" (DesJardins, 38). This theory states “our fundamental ethical duty is to treat people with respect…” and clearly with the Stop-and- Frisk policy this is being overlooked. Police Officers are committing racial profiling, accidentally or purposely, seemingly with the support of the Mayor. Respect towards blacks and Latinos is not apparent and many people see the problem that is going on and it seems as if the NYPD is just ignoring the obvious signs and complaints. And the justifications being provided by high ranking officials such as Mayor Bloomberg are cover ups to continue with the policy. Respect is an important thing to have for someone else and if the officers are not respectful, they should not expect it back. People do not respond to authority that is disrespectful and hurtful. If the citizens are not respected they will not respect law enforcement which causes more turmoil and more problems for the city overall.

UtilitarianismThe third ethical theory is Utilitarianism which is "an ethical tradition that directs to make decisions based on the overall consequences of our acts" (24 DesJardins). Or described in other words "maximizing the overall good" or "the greatest good for the greatest number" (27). The NYPD cannot use this ethical theory to justify their actions since the maximizing the overall good for the people is not really the main focus as complaints and lawsuits keep being filed which continue to be ignored. People are asking for a change since this policy is providing heartache and problems throughout the city. Although more than 70 percent of people were found innocent people who were stopped were still having problems, allegedly being targeted for criminal investigations. With the settlement reached in 2013 court case with Judge Shira Scheindlin, NYCLU ordered that the NYPD were to delete the names of those people who were stopped due to the policy and were not guilty. This shows how this policy was not looking out for the good of the people as they were forced to do a simple task that was causing problems to people.

Virtue Theory
Officers performing "Stop-and-Frisk" policy
The last ethical theory is the Virtue Theory which is based on the four primary virtues which are “courage, honesty, temperance, and justice" (Salazar). Courage defined by Salazar is "risk-taking and willingness to take a stand for the right ideas and actions" and the NYPD as they are not standing up for the right ideas or actions as they continued to let racial profiling drive the Stop-Frisk-Policy. The NYPD is not severing it community as they should. They ignore all the complaints and come up with bogus excuses to keep the policy alive. Honesty is the one sensitive topic of this whole case as it seems as if the NYPD was telling lies to the people as a way to keep the policy in place. A lot of the actions made by some high ranking officials that were sketchy and made the whole policy seem improper in people’s eyes. There are interviews with of the mayor and the commissioner claiming that people actually like the policy and that there should be more Stop-and-Frisks in their eyes, although the majority are highly against the policy. The definition of justice is just behavior or treatment and it is apparent that this does not occur on a regular basis with the NYPD and the Stop-and-Frisk policy. People are not being treated fairly which the definition claims. Also the behavior of officers and the orders given are unjust as well. As seen in the video of a New Yorker names Alvin the behavior of the officers are extremely and excessively disrespectful. These three topics in the Virtue Theory were heavily violated and provided reasons to why this ethical theory did not support the action going on by the NYPD.

Justified Ethics EvaluationThe major stakeholders in this case seem to have a heavy influence on one the rest of the other stakeholders in this case but as well as the rest of the city and community. As commissioner of the NYPD Bratton's job is to have his officers protect and serve the community. The protecting seems to be going too far with the Stop-and-Frisk policy. People believe their rights are being violated and that they are being taken advantage of and the two most influential people and the two people that could help out the community the most are on the opposing side, fighting against them. The city and the community have no chance practically of getting what they want from this situation; it is like David versus Goliath. The city should have some say and influence of how they are being treated. The NYPD is there to "serve" as well as protect and the serve part seems to be overlooked.
As the Mayor and Commissioner they should not expect much respect from the community. The people want their opinions and ideas to be heard and when they are feeling overlooked, plus being violated on the streets nothing will change for the better. It will always be the city against the NYPD. I think that the policy needs some major overhaul or monitoring so the relationship between citizens and officers betters itself. In such a big city I can see why a policy like this should exist but in its current form I believe people are being violated and profiled against, and this causes problems all throughout the city and between citizens and law enforcement.

Action Plan
Protestors urging NYPD to end the "Stop-and-Frisk" policy
As many people question the NYPD and their policies, some changes should be made for the good of the city and the communities within the city. The tactics and procedures used by officers are of concern and looked at as unethical. For the NYPD to get their reputation up and have people trust in them again adjustments have to occur.
Mentioned before was how people who were stopped by the Stop-and-Frisk policy were put in a database and kept in the system. Like it was brought up in court on July 16, 2010 the NYPD should not be able to keep this information about the people they have stopped. This is a way to better their reputation and create a positive look on the policy. The information has been reported to be used to target people. This means that the police is taking advantage and using their powers to benefit themselves at the cost of the community. People feel as if they are being watched or under surveillance 24/7.
Another plan the NYPD can try to launch is a scrutinized protocol which gives the officers in the city guidelines of when to commit a Stop-and-Frisk search. There are many cases and stories that show reasons why the policy should be done with. A specific story of a teen named Alvin who recorded his encounter with offices during a Stop-and-Frisk search really gives a glimpse of what the people go through. Alvin recording starts with him explaining to the officers how he was just stopped two blocks earlier. Officers just claim that he looks very suspicious and they have the right to top him again. Alvin in this case is a Hispanic man in his late teens or early twenties that is just walking the street in broad daylight with a backpack. The officers claim that the backpack makes him look very suspicious. This case goes along with a video that brings in a former police officer who is asked about the policy and the officer goes on to explain that the lieutenants and sergeants give them orders which are exactly “were going to go out there, and violate some rights.”
This shows the action plan that the officers have with the policy in place. The officers are disrespectful to the citizens and harassed them as well as they are told to do. The worst part is that the police commissioner of the NYPD and the mayor of New York allow this to happen and in fact encourage it. They actually want more Stop-and-Frisks. The action plan should be to find some uncorrupted leaders first off. If the two most influential and powerful people in New York agree with the policy and believe nothing is wrong, nothing will ever change. Finding leaders that understand the community and accept the fact that the policy is unethical would be a first huge step. People can protest as much as they want but with no say Stop-and-Frisks will continue throughout the city.
If change were to happen in the administrative aspect the next step would have to be to establish guidelines for the officers. Make the reason for a Stop-and-Frisk to occur be for substantial reasons. If rules to a Stop-and-Frisk were not to racially profile citizens, things would never change. People perceive other people in other ways that are already established in their mind. For their perception of people to change it would be nearly impossible. Guidelines would have to be very specific of when and how, or who to stop. 

With so many people in New York City some regulations and policies should be in place to help with crime and to control the public. However, I don’t believe the Stop-and-Frisk policy is the answer. People are being violated against their rights and are being discriminated against. Individuals in the city should not feel like they are under a telescope or being watched when walking the streets of New York. The disrespect some citizens receive as well just adds to the tensions between the city and the NYPD.

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