Rudolph Guliani, Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2016
One of the strategies that helped bring about an 85% reduction in crime in New York City between 1994 and 2013 was the careful and appropriate use of “stop and frisk.” This practice dramatically reduced the number of guns, knives and other dangerous weapons, as well as illicit drugs, in the city.
But according to candidate Hillary Clinton and moderator Lester Holt during Monday night’s presidential debate, stop and frisk is “unconstitutional.” They are wrong. In Mrs. Clinton’s case, it’s the usual misrepresenting she does when she does not know what she is talking about. As for Mr. Holt, if a moderator is going to interfere, he should do some homework and not pretend to know the law when he does not. Mr. Holt and NBC cannot overrule the U.S. Supreme Court.
Stop and frisk is based on an 8-1 decision of the Supreme Court, Terry v. Ohio. That ruling hasn’t been overturned or even modified by the court since it was handed down in 1968. Stop and frisk is constitutional and the law of the land. The majority opinion, written by then-Chief Justice Earl Warren, approved the constitutionality of stopping a suspect if the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed, or was about to commit, a crime. If the officer also has a reasonable suspicion the person is armed, he can conduct a pat-down — that is, a frisk — of a person’s outer clothing.
In many places, this practice is called a “Terry stop,” based on the decision upholding its constitutionality. It is a police technique used by all law enforcement agencies nationwide.
In the case discussed during Monday’s debate, federal Judge Shira Scheindlin found in 2013 that the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly applied stop and frisk was unconstitutional. The practice had been expanded to 600,000, the vast majority being of African-Americans. Previously, during my administration, for eight years under Commissioners William Bratton, Howard Safir and Bernard Kerik, the stops and frisks always fell short of 100,000.
During my administration, the U.S. Justice Department spent two years examining stop and frisk and it filed no case. After continued use of the practice during the administration of Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, Judge Scheindlin found that the volume of stops and the focus on the African-American community made the practice not unconstitutional in general but unconstitutional as applied. This is the distinction that is so important — yet was misunderstood by Mr. Holt and misrepresented by Mrs. Clinton.
Donald Trump was right. Hillary Clinton was wrong. Lester Holt should apologize for interfering and trying so hard to help Mrs. Clinton support her incorrect statement that stop and frisk is unconstitutional.