Monday, March 18, 2013

A Recipe: New York Style Minority Stew

You might have heard, as I just did, that the NYPD is being challenged on its policy of searching people in certain neighborhoods, without warrants -- or even probable cause. The police search people based on what they deem as "suspicious behavior." The NYPD are being taken to court by some residents who have had quite enough of it.

Today, on the news, I heard the police department's defense: It is effective. Crime in New York is down. I also heard a professor from Manhattan say that these searches are taking place in high-crime areas. She admitted that these high-crime areas are mostly populated by minorities. She seemed as if she thought this is a most unfortunate reality, but she maintained that this stop-and-search approach has been effective, so it is beneficial.

In 1729, Jonathan Swift addressed a problem in Dublin: too many poor kids on the streets. They were a burden to their parents and to the state. He came up with a solution: eat the children. If you've read his proposal, you will have seen that all the ducks, as they say, are in a row. It is most effective, this idea of eating the poor.

But one of the things Swift is pointing out in his satire (note that word, if you are not familiar with Swift's essay: satire; then, if you are not familiar with the essay, consider suing your school district for not having provided a sufficient education) is that just because a solution is effective, it doesn't mean it is ethical. Eating poor children is wrong, even if it means that it will not only make the problem go away, but bring about many other peripheral benefits.

Would even a 99% reduction in crime in New York City justify the illegal searching of citizens without their consent; without probable cause; without a warrant?

At any rate, I am assured (by an American acquaintance of mine) that a teenaged, African-American or Hispanic boy, seized, searched and thrown into a pot with some potatoes and a few carrots is a most tasty treat when he is served with beer and fries at a bar frequented by the police.


  1. Effective? Bah! It's merely security theater.

    Furthermore, it comes with very real risks for those stopped and frisked, and I don't just mean the potential for police brutality. Did you see this piece last week in the Atlantic? How Racism Is Bad for Our Bodies

    1. Wow -- I like that phrase: "security theater." Most likely true! That article is interesting...not sure what to think about it, yet...must process...