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Opinion: Columnists

Michael Bloomberg's 'stop-and-frisk' violates the Fourth Amendment

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Crime,Gregory Kane,Columnists,United States,New York,New York City,Analysis,Michael Bloomberg,Stop and Frisk,Civil Rights,Civil Liberties

Today, civics class, we will make one last-ditch effort to explain to America's number one enemy of liberty, the law known as the Fourth Amendment.

It reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

In the plainest, simplest English imaginable, the Founding Fathers stated emphatically that the right of Americans to be secure "in their persons" and a few other things "shall not be violated."

That's a simple idea someone with even a single-digit IQ could grasp. But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — yes, he's the nation's number-one enemy of the liberty in question — can't quite grasp it.

Bloomberg said he plans to appeal a recent federal court ruling in which Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the practice of "stop and frisk" — at least the way New York cops do it — is neither constitutional nor race-neutral.

A little clarification and full disclosure might, at this point, be in order. As a bona fide conservative, I'm all for the practice of "stop and frisk" — as long as it passes constitutional muster and meets the criteria set down in the 1968 Supreme Court decision Terry v. Ohio.

The incident that led to the Supreme Court ruling occurred on a Cleveland street back in 1963. Cleveland police Officer Martin McFadden saw three men — one of whom was named John Terry — walking in front of a store and looking into its windows.

McFadden judged the actions of the trio and concluded they were casing the store for a robbery. McFadden approached all three, identified himself as a police officer and then patted down all three.

A .38-caliber revolver was found on Terry and another handgun on a suspect known as Richard Chilton. No weapon was found on the third man.

Five years later, the Supreme Court ruled that McFadden, as a police officer observing three men acting suspiciously, didn't need probable cause to search the trio. He needed only a "reasonable suspicion" that a crime either had been or was about to be committed.

The problem with the NYPD's buck wild, ride-'em-cowboy approach to "stop and frisk," Scheindlin found, is that, in way too many instances, no suspicion at all, much less a reasonable one, was involved in the city's stops and frisks.

A stop made of a person who is suspected of nothing violates the Fourth Amendment. It violates the criteria the Supreme Court set down 45 years ago in Terry v. Ohio.

"Walking down the streets of Cleveland, Terry and Chilton held a reasonable expectation that their personal liberty would not be restrained by law enforcement."

That's from the first part of the Supreme Court's majority opinion in the Terry v. Ohio case, according to the legal dictionary section of thefreedictionary.com website.

Walking down the streets of New York, the vast majority of the black and Latino men that have been stopped "held a reasonable expectation that their personal liberty would not be restrained by law enforcement."

Bloomberg has defended the stopping of all those men by claiming that "stop and frisk" has led to fewer homicides in New York City. I'm betting Bloomberg isn't a film buff. If he were, the good mayor might have come across a quote that shows how oh-so-wrong he is in this matter.

In 1958, Charlton Heston and Orson Welles played two cops in the film noir, "Touch of Evil." In once scene, Heston's character, Mike Vargas, and Welles' character, Hank Quinlan, have this exchange.

Vargas: In any free country, a policeman is supposed to enforce the law. And the law protects the guilty as well as the innocent.

Quinlan: Our job is tough enough.

Vargas: It's supposed to be. It has to be tough. A policeman's job is only easy in a police state. That's the whole point, captain. Who's the boss? The cop? Or the law?

Only in BloombergWorld is the answer to those last three questions "the cop."

GREGORY KANE, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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