More Data on Stop-and-Frisk

Unfortunately, the paper is gated, but a new study by Wiley and Esebensen found that “being stopped or arrested not only increases future delinquency but also amplifies deviant attitudes” among young people (ages 9 through 15).  This analysis indicates that the authors feel their results are not necessarily “water tight” and that some police contact is “often unavoidable if crimes are to be prevented” but “that such police contact needs to be handled with utmost care to avoid the apparently harmful effects documented here – for example, they suggested that police avoid aggressive questioning of youths in public places.”

I was unaware of the formal “labeling” theory, but suffice it to say it is one I am sympathetic towards.  As I said then, treating young people like criminals often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Absent evidence of a crime, young people (minors especially)* should be given not only every presumption of innocence possible, but the presumption that they are well-intended, positive contributors to society.  Unless and until they prove otherwise, this must be the default when interacting with agents of the state, police officers in particular.  Should the police require contact in pursuit of a crime, the young person should be seen as a positive contributor towards the solving of that crime and treated accordingly until such time that they prove to be otherwise.  It seems unwise to create a new criminal or social deviant in the pursuit of an existing one.

I welcome any co-blogger or reader to submit a more thorough analysis should they have access to the full paper.

To compliment the data-driven study, I offer this anecdote, offered by a high school student from New York City on his personal interactions with stop-and-frisk:

This was collected as part of ChangetheNYPD.org‘s “Where Am I Going” campaign, which shares “the stories of people who believe they can achieve many things, but are not always given the hope and empowerment they envision.”

* To me, it seems obvious that this should be the norm for everyone.  Unfortunately, that ship seems to have sailed, so I focus my attention on young people at this point.

[photo credit: ThinkProgress.org]

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10 thoughts on “More Data on Stop-and-Frisk

  1. Even if it doesn’t create criminals, it pisses people off. Scenario: So office doughnut stops someone, frisks them, maybe pushes them up against a well, smack talks ’em, and generally, is discourteous to his employer. Think they’ll give a damn when he’s behind the 8 ball? Think they’ll believe him when they are called for jury duty? Think he’ll get the benefit of the doubt on any “mistakes” he makes? Think they will vote for increased taxes for him to continue to harrass them on the street? Nope. And even if they know he’s in the right, or it’s just a mistake, now’s the chance to get even, and they’ll take it. And that’s not even taking race into consideration.

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    • Think they’ll give a damn when he’s behind the 8 ball? Think they’ll believe him when they are called for jury duty? Think he’ll get the benefit of the doubt on any “mistakes” he makes? Think they will vote for increased taxes for him to continue to harrass them on the street? Nope.

      Well, at least there is something positive that will come from all this. /snark

      Respect is a two-way street. When cops show utter disrespect for the people they are supposed to serve and protect, they will not have any respect in return.

      As far as labeling, it makes sense to me. If a person avoids certain activities because they want to stay out of trouble with the law, but they end up in trouble with the law anyway, they lose the incentive to avoid those activities. If you are going to suffer the negative consequences of criminal activity, you might as well take advantage of some of the benefits as well.

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  2. And someone please explain to me if I’m wrong but isn’t this policy racist? I mean, like, we can use the word “racist” for real and not just the “I need to win this argument but I’ve only got two minutes” version?

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  3. I sincerely hoped that conservatives would recognize just how harmful profiling can be when they were wrongly and unfairly profiled by the IRS. Unfortunately, such does not seem to be the case.

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  4. FYI, there is a somewhat lengthy literature supporting the general idea that for youngsters contact with the justice system can lead to more future crime than it deters–at least in some situations. A few brief searches uncover that it stretches back to at least the 70s.

    This study, for example, finds the phenomenon with males (though not with females, possibly because they are more risk averse):
    http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/29/4/336.short

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