A controversial policing tactic may be making its way to Detroit — and Michigan’s civil rights advocates are pushing back. Earlier this summer, the Detroit Police Department brought in the Manhattan Institute and Bratton Group to help with new training methods. Based out of New York, the Manhattan Institute developed the New York City Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, a law enforcement protocol that allows officers to stop and question citizens without a warrant and search them for contraband. The consulting group is now pushing for a similar program in Detroit, calling on the city’s police officers to become more aggressive with patrolling. Under the contract with the Manhattan Institute, DPD Traffic Unit will “evolve its mission from principally the issuance of tickets toward the prevention of crime.” While crime prevention is clearly needed in Detroit — in 2012, Detroit had the highest rate of violent crime of any city with a population of more than 200,000 — stop-and-frisk is the wrong answer for Detroit. A police tactic riddled with racial profiling allegations has no place in a city with an extensive history of racial tension.
Ignoring the impact of crime in Detroit is next to impossible. In a 2012 survey from The Detroit News, 49 percent of the city’s residents reported feeling unsafe in their neighborhoods. While the Detroit Police Department reported a 6.09-percent drop in the city’s homicide rate for 2013, 197 homicides still have been reported since Aug. 5 of this year. That being said, aggressive harassing of Detroit’s pedestrians won’t solve the crime problem — especially in city where racial issues have drawn significant divides.
In New York City, where stop-and-frisk has been in practice in some form for two decades, claims of racial profiling at the hands of police officers has run rampant. Between 2002 and 2012, nearly 90 percent of those stopped by the NYPD for a stop-and-frisk were black or Latino. Compare that number to this statistic from New York’s ACLU: “About 88 percent of stops — more than 3.8 million — were of innocent New Yorkers.” Such practices haven’t built up citizens’ trust in law enforcement; in fact, some suggest it’s done the very opposite.
“As a victim of racial profiling, I understand the anger (stop and frisk) breeds,” said Paul Butler, a Georgetown University law professor, in The New York Times. “Stop and frisk breeds disrespect for the law.” That disrespect for the program is noteworthy in the black community: According to a 2012 poll from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, 25 percent of black voters supported stop-and-frisk, while 69 percent opposed it. Given Detroit’s predominately black population — 82.7 percent of the city’s residents are black — a racially charged policy is likely to be at least controversial, if not outright opposed in the city.
Besides its questionable effectiveness, stop-and-frisk may be unconstitutional, making an implementation of the policy an illogical move. In August, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin struck down the tactic in New York, saying that it lends itself to racial profiling. “Both statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites,” she explained. Because of this recent ruling and long-documented history of racial tension within the city, bringing the program to Detroit would likely create a complicated judicial process before results could even be seen on the streets, ultimately doing more harm than good.