“To Corral and Control the Ghetto”: Stop, Frisk, and the Geography of Freedom

Anders Walker*

 

Behind police brutality there is social brutality, economic brutality, and political brutality. — Eldridge Cleaver

Few issues in American criminal justice have proven more toxic to police/community relations than stop and frisk. To take just one example, federal judge Shira Scheindlin recently declared that stops lacking “individualized reasonable suspicion” had become so “pervasive and persistent” in New York City that they not only reflected “standard [police] procedure,” but had become “a fact of daily life” for minority residents. Scheindlin promptly ordered “immediate changes to the NYPD’s policies,” meanwhile recalling the Supreme Court’s observation in Terry v. Ohio that “the degree of community resentment” caused by a particular police practice could influence judicial “assessment” of that practice.

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*Professor, Saint Louis University School of Law; Ph.D, 2003, Yale University; J.D., 1998, Duke University; B.A., 1994, Wesleyan University. I would like to thank Tracey Meares, David Sklansky, Jeffrey Fagan, Devon Carbado, Darryl K. Brown, Kami Chavis Simmons, Scott Sundby, Arnold Loewy, Eric J. Miller, and Joel Goldstein for input on this piece. I would also like to thank Adina Schwartz, Dorothy Schultz, and the members of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice faculty for early conversations on this topic, including insight into the role that riots played in the development of a Humanities curriculum for the New York City Police Department.