Topical Debate Recap – Stop and Frisk

The stop and frisk law in New York City has made people question their views on the effectiveness of this new law. There are many pros and cons to abiding by this law, which were addressed in a debate during class. Both parties demonstrated good points on their sides, putting in a lot of time and research for their efforts.

On the pros side, Ashley and Ellie started off by talking about how stop and frisk was not in violation of the fourth amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires a warrant. They brought up the Terry versus Ohio case in 1968, which can be directly linked to the stop and frisk law. A police officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop someone, and it is used for protection of the public. The New York Police Department has only been professional when they do their job. They have found over 7600 weapons, which is a large number of lives they could be saving. There have been around twenty-four million interactions. On average, each police officer has one stop every two weeks, which is not excessive.

Abby and Madeline, against stop and frisk, also had a very strong opening statement. They gave several reasons why it was a bad idea to have this law in effect. They believe that it is against the fourth amendment, because the police officers did not necessarily have reasonable cause. They said it was also against the fourteenth amendment, which is for equal protection of the law. It may damage the relationship between the police and citizens if they are always in fear of being frisked on the street. There is no watch for sexual harassment on women, and the law could be considered sexist or racist. Blacks and Hispanics make up 87% of the victims of stop and frisk.

Ashley and Ellie took into account everything that was said against the law, and came back with some good points. After every stop, a form has to be filled out for the reason why the person was stopped and information on the ethnicity of the accused. Only six percent were stopped without cause and unjustly. The stops mainly happen in areas that need police protection. Eighty-three percent of crimes that are committed are by blacks or hispanics, which means there is no racial profiling.

Madeline and Abby, after carefully planning together their next argument, brought in a real life story. A 17 year old black boy with straight A’s living in Brooklyn was stopped 70 times without ever actually doing anything wrong. This could be considered racial profiling. 90% of the stops do not uncover evidence of a crime, and 97% do not find any sort of contraband. They also challenged something that the other group mentioned; a warrant doesn’t count as justified if it is filled out after the search.

After both teams made their points, a vote was taken in the class. Almost everyone voted for the pro side, but said that both sides made excellent points. They mainly based their votes on opinions they had previously had. Both teams made good use of their numbers, but there were more pros than cons in the situation. The bringing up of race is what makes the law so controversial, and it is very difficult to take a position on this law.

After the voting, both groups were given another chance to say their final points. The pro side pointed out that people were stopped from behavior, and they were only pat down lightly on the outside of their clothing. It wasn’t done in the middle of the street. It wasn’t something that should be taken personally, because it was a part of being a member of the community. It was a minor inconvenience for a safer city. The cons side contradicted some of their statements by saying that it did happen in public and was an embarrassment. The definition of suspicion could be very broad. There are more cons that outweigh the pros. There is no exact protocol for how a stop and frisk should happen. They believe that it causes more problems than it’s worth.

Submitted by Browning S


(Teacher’s NOTE) General Details – Topical Debates:
* 2 or 3 debaters on each side; up to 8-12 minutes total: pro (1’-2’), con (1’-2’), pro (1’-2’), con (1’-2’)… and maybe pro (1’-2’), con (1’-2’)
* each individual debater will be evaluated on the cogency of his/her arguments, the quality of research, and the clarity of presentation
* debaters will NOT be graded on whether their side “wins” in the class vote
* Goals of Debates: to identify as many arguments and positions as possible with respect to the topic at hand
** option for third member of the team: prepare a blog post with an outline of your argument to extend our discussion online
1-2 minutes for first speaker on the PRO side
1-2 minutes for first speaker on the CON side
1-2 minutes 2nd speaker –> PRO
1-2 minutes 2nd speaker –> CON
       – Class vote –
Class: Why did you vote the way you did?
Debaters: Is there anything you wish you had said… but didn’t? (a rebuttal period –> this is where you’ll address other side’s arguments and classmates’ comments…)
Class: Are there any ideas that you wish you had heard from debaters… but didn’t?
Debaters: Last words – “In conclusion, our strongest argument is… / Vote for the (PRO/CON) because…”
    – Class vote #2 –

About Dr. Ostroff
Head of Upper School at The Emery/Weiner School in Houston, TX

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