Can changing the name of an over-used, invasive, warrant-less search, known as a “Stop & Frisk” become less offensive, simply by changing the name? Baltimore City Police think so. In what appears to be a bad case of deja vu, the City Police are again choosing a re-branding approach to a public relations problem than a substantive change in procedure.
In 2006, the Baltimore Sun reported that the city’s reduction in violent crime was likely due, in large part, to a “mistaken” reclassification of different crimes, especially aggravated assaults.
In what seems like a new version of this story, Baltimore City Police have decided that they need to take action to remove the negative press involved in excessive “Stop & Frisk” searches of citizens. However, instead of actually changing the procedures, they are simply changing the name! The exact same warrant-less search, commonly called a “Stop & Frisk” or a “Terry Stop,” will now simply be called an “Investigative Stop.”
When asked about the change, Baltimore’s Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said: “Do we stop people? We stop people. Do we frisk individuals? We frisk individuals. [But] ‘stop and frisk,’ the way it has been rendered in a decision in New York, is not a tactic that we use here. We’re changing the name because of the negative connotation.”
What is the interesting question, looking forward, is what will happen to the original investigative stop? You see, police are permitted to stop an individual to ask basic questions if they have a reasonable suspicion that some criminal activity may be present. But, unless there was a reason to think there was a weapon involved, then the Frisk part was not permitted. So, if the Stop and Frisk is now an Investigative Stop, will the number of searches increase now that they will be lumped into the same category as a simple questioning? Only time will tell.
- Baltimore Drops the Term “Stop-and-Frisk” But Still Violates Privacy (thestateweekly.com)
- This Is What It’s Like to Be in a Stop and Frisk (gawker.com)
- NY Police Union Joins Lawsuit Against Stop-and-Frisk Law (colorlines.com)