Incoming New York Mayor Makes Vague Case for the ‘Proper’ Kind of Stop-and-Frisk

The Writing of the Daily NewsEric Adams, New York’s Mayor-elect is promising to be kinder and gentler in his “stop and flee” police work.

On the campaign trail, Adams had said that he didn’t fully oppose the concept of “stop and frisk”—the police practice stopping people with very little suspicion to make sure they aren’t carrying guns or drugs—but that he believed the New York Police Department (NYPD) had abused its authority with the mass targeting of minorities for searches. Although Adams admitted that stop and frisk was illegally implemented by the police, he did not believe the practice in itself was harmful.

How does it work, then? He describes his Daily NewsAdams describes an incident in which two Bronx officers were gunned down by a suspect last week while responding to a 911 call regarding a suspicious male with a firearm. According to NYPD officers, they approached the man matching their description and requested his hands. Charlie Vasquez (23) was reported to have produced a gun and fired at the officers.

Adams’ conclusion:

It was defeated. There was one more weapon on the street. Another blow to the evil guys.

There are however some people in the area who believe that Vasquez should not be confronted by these officers and should instead have stopped him to question.

It’s a straw man argument. Let’s look at it. They did not engage in “stop and frisk” in any way. A man they approached was similar to the description of someone carrying a gun. They were unable to identify whether the suspect was real or not, so the man fired at them.

Adams didn’t specify who Adams believes Vasquez shouldn’t be confronted by or interrogated by police. Maybe this was not the objection to “stop & frisk.”

It is a simple and uncontroversial aspect of policing. It is, or at least most of it. The confrontation might have been accidental, and one of the officers may have shot the other. The majority of people on the political spectrum support the police investigating criminal activity or a potential danger to themselves. Adams knows that the problem is in what police end up doing. It’s not what “stop-and-frisk” in New York City looked like.

Adams points out in his opinion that there is truth to the fact that police have the power to search and stop people if they have reasonable suspicion they are suspects of a crime. In New York City however, stop and frisk resulted actually in thousands of police searches each year of mostly minority men. However, it was not the case that they were armed. They did not end up being arrested. A 2014 report by New York Civil Liberties Union found that only 2 percent of “stop and freak” police officers ever discovered weapons. NYPD officers stopped almost 700,000.00 people each year during the peak of the policy.

So why on earth is Adams attempting to use a case where a man was not even frisked—a case where the guy actually shot at police—as an example of some sort of “proper” stop and frisk? It’s all about guns. Adams supports gun control just as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Adams is trying to persuade New Yorkers to adopt a stop-and-frisk policy to protect the city from criminals.

Adams does not know what kind of change Adams believes will grant the NYPD that power. However, it is possible to return the city back to the same level of abuse Adams used to resist. (His opposition to the status quo was real—when he was a state senator, he helped craft a law that purged NYPD database of the names of innocent people they searched.) Instead, we are presented with a vague defense of stopping people and forcing them to flee in some appropriate way. This is based on an instance that does not meet the usual definition of “stop and search.” Adams doesn’t ask about how police may behave when approaching someone they discover to be innocent.