Jacob Sullum

When she certified Floyd v. City of New York as a class action last year, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin noted that in 2009 "officers listed no coherent suspected crime" on more than a third of the forms. She also observed that "for every 69 stops that police officers justified specifically on the basis of a suspicious bulge (from 2004 through 2009), they found one gun."

As the number of stop-and-frisk encounters initiated by the NYPD grew from about 100,000 in Michael Bloomberg's first year as mayor to almost 700,000 in 2011, the share of stops yielding guns fell from 0.38 percent to 0.033 percent. Bloomberg says that trend shows the program is working, because "the whole idea ... is not to catch people with guns; it's to prevent people from carrying guns."

If so, the policy is plainly inconsistent with the Supreme Court's Fourth Amendment rulings, which do not allow random searches aimed at deterring crime. It is telling that Bloomberg, confronted by the argument that his beloved stop-and-frisk policy is unconstitutional, responds by insisting that it works. Rights are not contingent on the effectiveness of the police tactics that violate them.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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