FBI Director James Comey: Stop-and-Frisk an Important Crime-Fighting Tool When Used ‘Correctly’

FBI director James Comey.

FBI director James Comey

Despite the fact that stop-and-frisk is a clear violation of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights, FBI Director James Comey thinks the controversial practice is an effective crime-fighting tool when used the right way. At least that’s what he told a House of Representatives panel Wednesday night, Reuters reports.

According to the news site, Comey asserted that police who stop and search citizens for no good reason should only have to explain their reasoning AFTER the invasive encounter.

The questionable police tactic has long been challenged for its tendency to disproportionately profile, target and criminalize minority citizens. The NYPD has since stopped using the tactic — which was declared unconstitutional — but that hasn’t stopped fellow conservative and presidential candidate Donald Trump from advocating for wider use of stop-and-frisk.

“One of the things I’d do, is I’d do stop-and-frisk,” Trump said during a town hall meeting where he was asked what he’d do to combat crime in predominately Black communities. “We did it in New York and it worked incredibly well, and you have to be proactive.”

However, data compiled by the New York Civil Liberties Union tells a different story. The numbers showed that in 2013, New Yorkers were reportedly stopped by police a whopping 191,558 times. That number peaked at 685,724 stops back in 2011 while the city was still under the purview of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani — another avid supporter of the discriminatory practice.

By 2015, however, that number hit a staggering low of 22,939, as more cities across the country, including New York, increasingly abandoned their stop-and-frisk procedures. The NYCLU reported a 97 percent decrease in police stops, yet the occurrence of city crime barely changed. For example, crimes totaled 74,566 in 2011, compared to 73,985 in 2015, according to the union’s data.

The data also showed a steady decline in crime as the total number of stops reduced — proving that the implementation of stop-and-frisk didn’t do much to combat crime like Comey and Trump insist it did.

In the past, the FBI director has made some questionable remarks regarding policing, such as the time he asserted that the increase in violent crimes was attributed to police officers’ fears of being videotaped when confronting suspects — a phenomenon he dubbed the “Ferguson Effect.” Comey said the influence of viral videos reduced aggressive policing tactics, thus causing a spike in murder rates.

“That wind is surely changing behavior, common sense tells me,” Comey said. “In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?”

Just last year, Comey gave an honest speech on the dangers of implicit racial bias and how it can lead to the killing and mistreatment of African-American men. His new advocacy for stop-and-frisk policing is clearly a step in the opposite direction.

“A mental shortcut becomes almost irresistible and maybe even rational by some lights,” the FBI director said during the February 2015 speech. “The two young Black men on one side of the street look like so many others the officer has locked up. Two white men on the other side of the street — even in the same clothes — do not. The officer does not make the same association about the two white guys, whether that officer is white or Black. And that drives different behavior. The officer turns toward one side of the street and not the other. We need to come to grips with the fact that this behavior complicates the relationship between police and the communities they serve.”

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