Racial and ethnic minorities often face disparate treatment when it comes to police conducting stop and frisk pat-downs. Not only do police conduct more stop and frisk pat-downs on minorities, but police also make more arrests of minority suspects from stop and frisk pat-downs. There is little doubt that at least some of these stop and frisk pat-downs are prompted by the police officer’s impermissible use of racial profiling to identify possible suspects on the basis of their skin color or accent.
What Is A Stop And Frisk?
A stop and frisk involves a police officer temporarily detaining a suspect for questioning and an on-the-spot pat-down, based on an articulable and reasonable suspicion that the individual who is being detained has engaged in criminal activity. Reasonable suspicion to make the stop in the first place can be based on information from an informant, observations made by police as to facts, police information, or a suspect’s unprovoked flight from law enforcement. Reasonable suspicion to conduct a pat-down can be based on a suspicion that the suspect is about to engage in criminal activity, or that the suspect is armed and dangerous.
The stop is supposed to be brief and if the officer believes the suspect to be armed and dangerous, the officer may also conduct a quick frisk or pat-down of the suspect’s outer clothing, which is supposed to be non-intrusive. Some stops result with the suspect getting a ticket, or being arrested, while other stops end by the police letting the suspect go because no evidence was found on the suspect.
A stop and frisk is a type of search and seizure that is an exception to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects people from unreasonable search and seizure by the police without a warrant and without probable cause. Stop and frisk searches comprise one of the warrantless search exceptions, and probable cause is not required for the police to conduct a stop and frisk pat-down.
A stop that is illegal, meaning that the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion upon which to make the stop in the first place, or that is made strictly on the basis of racial profiling, is police misconduct. Similarly, a stop can turn into a false arrest if the stop takes too long, which is another form or police misconduct.
A majority of stop and frisk pat-downs are the result of racial profiling or other police misconduct, and infrequently turn up any weapons or evidence of some other crime - the suspects are really just innocent victims. The lawyers at Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC have assisted a number of clients with racial profiling, and stop and frisk cases. Contact us today to speak with one of our civil rights lawyers.