Heather Mac Donald is a John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She also is a recipient of 2005 Bradley Prize for Outstanding Intellectual Achievement.
Mac Donald's work at City Journal has canvassed a range of topics including homeland security, immigration, policing and "racial" profiling, homelessness and homeless advocacy, educational policy, the New York courts, and business
improvement districts. Her writings have also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, Partisan Review, The New Criterion, Public Interest, and
Academic Questions. Her book The Burden of Bad Ideas' collection of essays from the pages of City Journal details the effects of the sixties'
counterculture's destructive march through America's institutions. Her second book, Are Cops Racist another City Journal anthology investigates the workings of the
police, the controversy over so-called racial profiling, and the anti-profiling lobby's harmful effects on black Americans.
On March 18, 2013, the case of Floyd v. New York came to trial in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin. Floyd v. New York challenges the New York Police Department’s stop, question, and frisk policy, one of three such lawsuits pending before Judge Scheindlin to do so, and the one with the greatest potential to shut down the practice.
Stop, question, and frisk is an essential part of the New York policing revolution that began in 1994 under Police Commissioner William Bratton. That revolution brought crime down a record-breaking 80 percent crime drop since the early 1990s by upending the traditional idea that policing can merely respond to crime after the fact. New York’s proactive policing, by contrast, takes as its mission stopping crime before it happens. Stopping and questioning people engaged in suspicious behavior is central to that iconoclastic idea.
The plaintiffs in the trilogy of anti-stop suits argue, however, that because blacks and Hispanics are stopped at higher rates than whites, the policy is deliberately racist and unconstitutional. Such a charge ignores the reality of where crime hits the hardest in the city, and who its usual victims and perpetrators are.
The following articles explain the stop, question, and frisk tactic, examine the arguments in the federal lawsuits, and reveal that the strongest supporters of proactive policing are law-abiding residents of high crime areas, who rightly yearn for the same freedom from fear and orderly public spaces as residents of more affluent neighborhoods take for granted.