no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Detroit to Implement New York Style “Stop and Frisk”

August 20th, 2013

In Detroit, when you call the police because you actually need their assistance the average response time is something like 40 minutes; this is clearly a Department which needs to direct every available resource towards providing actual help and assistance to those in immediate need.

Instead, Detroit is moving forward with a stop-and-frisk policy, designed by the same consultants who implemented the controversial (and recently-ruled unconstitutional* program in New York City).

Defenders of these “stop-and-frisk” programs, like Detroit Police Assistant Chief Eric Ewing, are quick to argue about “reasonable suspicion”,

If we have reasonable suspicion someone is about to commit a crime, we’re allowed to stop that individual. If we have a good reason to believe they may be armed — say, if we see a holster, or a bulge that looks like a gun — then we’re allowed to search them. That’s just being proactive.

We’re not telling our officers they have to go out and stop X-number of people each day. But we are telling them to do police work.

But the basis of this “reasonable suspicion” is deference to the officer’s judgment, which statistical evidence — this is data coming from the NYPD — demonstrates to be laughably unreliable: About 90% of those stopped were completely innocent of any wrongdoing, i.e., the officer’s judgment was wrong, 90% of the time.

Let that sink in: Ninety percent of the time, they’re wrong. Yet we’re supposed to defer to their judgment?

The real issue is that stop-and-frisk, especially in light of the data, is essentially a fishing expedition. It’s NOT good policing, it’s an absolute and undeniable abrogation of people’s right to be secure in their person, and not to be harassed by the police at every corner..

While Ewing and other apologists may argue that their officers are stopping people “with a reason”, the statistics demonstrate otherwise. I suspect the reality is a combination of these three factors (hopefully more of 1 & 2 than of 3), among others:

  1. Officers are just not very good at determining whether there is a reason to make a stop in the first place.
  2. Or, Officers are being forced to make more stops than their judgment dictates, because of quotas imposed from their CO’s (this is fact in NY, and probably true in most other locales)
  3. Or, they are simply harassing people because they can.

To put this in some additional perspective: Detroit is literally bankrupt. It can’t afford streetlights, snow removal, garbage pick-up, etc. Further, there is a half-century (or more) of well-deserved mistrust and hostility towards law enforcement. Police response time is win-the-internet level of epic failure. Yet somehow, they think that randomly stopping people who are doing nothing wrong (and a 90% failure rate is akin to random stops) is a good use of what few resources they have?

No. It’s a waste of time, and it’s likely to be counterproductive. Every minute they spend harassing 90% of innocent people is a minute which could’ve been used doing actual police work, solving real crimes, doing community outreach, being available for real emergency calls and citizens in distress, etc., is a minute invested in fomenting even more distrust and hostility towards law enforcement.


* The News spends a lot of time on the racial issue, and while this may be a concern for some, I think it’s a red herring, and “journalists” should be ashamed for playing this card in lieu of addressing the real, tangible problems. I take issue with Scheindlin’s ruling on similar grounds: it simply is not the right reason to oppose these tactics.

Count Day in Michigan

September 29th, 2010

They’ve always made a big deal about “count day” where I’m from. I’m sure other States do something similar. The idea is that the State uses the attendance count from this one day as the baseline count, and this attendance count is then used when the districts divvy up the State funding available for public schools.

The attendance count for the fourth Wednesday of every school year is used to determine 75% of state funding for schools statewide. It is a crucial day for cash-strapped public schools.

I always thought it was silly, but it’s especially silly now in the 21st century with digital everything. What’s the point of a single “count day”? Presumably every district — every school and every single classroom — has a “count” every day if they’re taking attendance. So using the attendance on a single day as proxy for overall participation and/or attendance in this day and age (c’mon, it’s not like someone has to manually tally all the attendance numbers) is about as retarded as a football bat. And it can easily be manipulated, something which Detroit Public Schools acknowledge through the “incentives” they put in place to get more kids to show up, skewing the numbers in their favor:

In Detroit, count day has become a festive affair in many schools. This year, it will include prizes, giveaways, face-painting, open houses and health screenings to make sure kids — and thereby state funds — show up to school. Parents who send their students for a full day will get a chance to win a Target gift card.

There is no reason to believe that a sample size of one is representative of an entire district’s daily enrollment/attendance. They should use a mean attendance; the average number of students attending school on a daily basis over the course of the year.

Aiyana Jones

May 17th, 2010

Over the weekend, a member of the Detroit Police Department shot and killed seven year-old Aiyana Jones. They were serving a warrant in pursuit of a murder suspect, who ultimately surrendered in another unit of the duplex where Aiyana’s lived.

Details are still coming out. It’s not worth my time to speculate. When we have a better understanding of what happened, I’ll update.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics