In recent years and months, there’s been a lot of debate over the actions of law enforcement officials in many U.S. cities and communities. Upon being sworn into service, police officers throughout the country vow to protect and serve everyday citizens. Given the important role that law enforcement officers play in keeping our communities safe, it’s critical that they have the trust and respect of those they vow to serve and protect.
A police officer must wear many hats. From observer and investigator to responder and enforcer, at times the job calls upon an officer to serve as both a diplomat and discipliner. Not surprisingly, officers may struggle with how to fulfill all of these roles and, at times, may engage in questionable practices.
Recently, a practice known as stop-and-frisk that is widely implemented by many police departments, has become the subject of much public scrutiny and criticism. While often reported about in major urban areas like New York City and Chicago, a recent report by the Police Conduct Oversight Commission sheds light on the stop-and-frisk practices of Minneapolis police officers.
Stop-and-frisk relates to a practice carried out by members of the police force “in which officers stop people they reasonably believe are committing or about to commit a crime.” Critics of the controversial practice argue it promotes and perpetuates acts of racial profiling as minorities are often disproportionately targeted in such activities.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable search and seizure. However, the U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled in favor of stop-and-frisk practices citing police safety as a major factor. The practice, however, is only legally sanctioned in cases where an officer has both “reasonable suspicion of criminal activity” and reasonable suspicion to believe that an individual is armed.
When examining a small percentage of stop-and-frisks conducted by Minneapolis Police Department officers last year, the PCOC found that officers often failed to provide any details about the stops. In response, the PCOC has called upon police department officials to both improve reporting methods for stop-and-frisks and also provide more clarity and transparency with regard to “the department’s policy on such stops.”
Source: Star Tribune, “Report: Minneapolis police rarely justify stop-and-frisks,” Libor Jany, April 15, 2015