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Promotin’ the General Welfare

Stop and Frisk for All!

Recently, U.S. Senator John Kennedy opined on the Times-Pic’s website about the current state of the crime problem in New Orleans. Yes, we have one. Sadly, we’ve had one for quite some time and lately, it’s worsening. Near the close of his sobering sermon, the Senator offered up an oh-so-novel solution to stem criminal activity in New Orleans’ streets – what he refers to as a “stop-question-and-frisk program”, and what T-P Columnist Tim Morris later clarifies in a “he meant to say” column addressing Kennedy’s “stop and frisk" suggestion.


Now, maybe I’m giving Sen. Kennedy a bit too much latitude on this one, more so than Mr. Morris might allow, but adding a new wrinkle to this plank of the “broken windows” strategy might actually allay concerns over racial profiling and, to the contrary, make allies instead of enemies.


Hmmm, I smell a thought coming.


See, and believe me, I have not one whit of insider info on this matter, but hear me out on behalf of the Estimable Senator. By questioning a person who has been stopped before you begin to frisk the individual, an officer of the law has a moment to exercise greater discretion and assess the “situation,” if you know what I mean. Of course, the person, er, “situation,” being stopped might well resent being delayed on her or his way to handling whatever business is at hand; but hey, what’s a little more inconvenience in your life when you’re suspected of being a card-carrying thug?


I mean, it’s not racial profiling if you mean well, according to Sen. Kennedy’s logic — which raises another opportunity to do good and do one better. Instead of stopping, questioning, and frisking only those “situations” (I’m getting the hang of it!) that seem to best exemplify members of Thug Nation, how’s about we stop, question, and frisk everyone, just like TSA reserves the right to do at an American airport?!


As a person of a color “situation” (by jove, I think I’ve got it!), I am always eager to join my fellow patriots when approaching TSA checkpoints because I know that it is more likely that we will be treated equally, regardless race, color, or creed (hopefully, right?). Sen. Kennedy’s brilliant modification works perfectly fine if the potential for everyone to be inconvenienced exists. Then, the likelihood of being accused of racial profiling should lessen.


Now, you might say, as I’m sure Sen. Kennedy would, that only persons who most resemble a “thug” — his broadly socio-cultural identifier — should be subjected to this nuisance. As he states in his humble opinion, “stop-and frisk is not racial profiling, as some say.  ‘Reasonable suspicion’ is a legal, objective standard taught every day in police academies.”  


Oops! Now, Senator, you lost me…


I was really right there with you up until you dropped that line about “reasonable suspicion”. Your version of "reasonable suspicion” may be a horse of a whole ‘nother color when observed from someone else’s perspective. The high-falutin’ legalese applied to describe a practice “taught every day in police academies” does not convince me that it is not applied subjectively, especially not when conducted according to your specifications.


Consider that in the beginning of his modest proposal, Kennedy describes a mugging committed by “a thug wearing a black bandana and brandishing a silver handgun.” That is one case of a type of “thug” — but what about “thugs” who engage in criminal activity in other areas Sen. Kennedy represents, “thugs” who live in other than urban areas, the ones who don’t necessarily come to mind when you say “thug” in reference to crime in an American city? Aren’t those folks part of the problem as well?  Or, maybe they’re better described as “hooligans” (sorry, it’s the Catholic school in me).


If everyone was stopped, questioned, and frisked in all circumstances, perhaps every “situation” in which one is  “suspected” of “holding” something illegally – be it drugs or guns – would receive the same expert, “police academy” scrutiny. Then no one could be charged with age or gender discrimination, let alone racial discrimination. Law enforcement could even establish stop, question, and frisk checkpoints, akin to drunk-driving checkpoints. We could become the poster children for a more effective “stop-and-frisk” practice: by updating the old way with a little twist — first stop, then ask, then frisk. I hear a PSA jingle somewhere in there!


Let’s face it, TSA seems to do a pretty good job of it — maybe a bit too thorough at times for some folks’ tastes, but you can never be too careful these days. TSA stops. TSA questions. And, if the mood strikes ‘em, it’s arms-up-and-legs-apart time!  


And if applied trying to stop crime, who knows? You might nab a few more who would’ve fallen through the cracks. Instead of sniffing out lil Annie who got her gun, it could be Grannie got a gun and this time she means business!


Thanks, Sen. Kennedy, for working to make New Orleans, and America, a better place.



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The text above is a column and expresses only the opinion of the author, not NOLA Defender or NOLA Defender’s Editorial Board.

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