Indiana News

Could We See 'Stop and Frisk' in Indianapolis?

No one has suggested New York's controversial policy yet


Some critics of Mayor Ballard's response to the recent increase in shootings have cited New York's reduction in crime as evidence that Indy can do better.  What isn't known is whether they would support the concept of 'stop and frisk', which some credit for the drop in New York crime while others say it's unconstitutional.

Listen to Ray Steele's report:

'Stop and frisk' is used mainly by police officers in high crime areas.  The policy allows police officers to stop, frisk and briefly detain a person if the officer has 'reasonable suspicion that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime.  "If the subject matches the description of someone who has been involved in a crime, has the clothes on of someone who has been involved in a crime, then the police officer meets that threshold where he can make that stop," said Jim White, retired Indiana State Police officer who now lectures at IUPUI's School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Stop and frisk is primarily used by large cities, such as New York and Los Angeles.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg credits the policy for part of the reduction in violent crime in his city.  Maggie Lewis, president of the City-County Council in Indy, did not cite stop and frisk but did mention a 25-percent drop in New York's murder rate in the statement she issued following Mayor Ballard's announcement that more than 100 police officers were being moved from desk duty to patrols.  

Critics of stop and frisk say it is nothing more than racial profiling, and the New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a class action federal lawsuit in an effort to stop the policy.  According to the city, almost nine out of ten stop and frisk encounters in 2012 involved African-Americans or Latinos.  Bloomberg has said the policy is not profiling and says almost all murders in New York involve minority suspects.  "New York City Police did more than 600,000 stop and frisks last year, and 90-percent of the people they stopped were innocent of anything," said Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana.

Stop and frisk is allowed as long as officers follow the model from a 1968 Supreme Court decision.  In Terry v. Ohio, the court ruled that police who stop and search someone are not violating their Fourth Amendment right to not be subject to unreasonable searches if the officer has a reasonable belief that the person committed a crime, was about to do so or has a gun and is considered dangerous.  "If you can demonstrate why you are making the stops, the rationale behind those stops, I think the public is going to go along with you.  But again, that's a very fine line," said White.

Despite the recent string of shootings, many of which have occurred in the same part of Indy, White believes that even without stop and frisk, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department are doing all they can.   "Poverty is an issue.  (So is) the breakdown of the family and social unit. This more than a police matter; this is a societal matter."



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