Louisiana Senator John Kennedy called for “stop and frisk” practices in New Orleans.  But NOPD already utilizes a constitutional form of stops and frisks.  Despite his clownish persona, Kennedy is an intelligent and informed person.  Either he wants the NOPD to become more aggressive or he is completely unaware of the policies of the police department in the biggest city in the state he represents. 

Don’t get it twisted. Louisiana Senator John Kennedy is a highly skilled politician. Kennedy is known for one-liners. The clown of the Senate, some of Kennedy’s best quips succinctly and humorously describe often complex situations.  His ability to distill complicated stuff and weaponize his humor serves him politically.  He’s a conservative Republican. And Louisianans just  reelected him with over 60% of the votes cast.  So people like his style and appreciate his humorous approach to framing his positions.   

Some of his funniest quotes include:

  • You can get a goat to climb tree, but you’d be better off hiring a squirrel.
  • Only dead fish go with the flow
  • Democrats are running around like they found a hair in their biscuit.
  • The short answer is ‘No.’ The long answer is ‘Hell No.’
  • If you trust government, you obviously failed history class.

About the city of New Orleans, Kennedy said, “We’ve tried everything but one thing: Stop and frisk.” He referenced the policy and practice of the NYPD and went on to say, “It is time to allow the men and women of the New Orleans Police Department to use stop and frisk without fear of losing their jobs.”

But Kennedy’s attempt to increase police activity as a crime prevention is doomed to fail for three specific reasons. The NOPD is struggling to add new officers to its ranks. The department spends most of its time responding to nonpolice work. And the NOPD is under a federal consent decree. But most importantly, police work does nothing to prevent crime.   

Too Few Officers

Currently, NOPD performs Terry Stops.  These are constitutional stops.  They can only happen if the officer believes there  is “reasonable suspicion that a person has engaged, is engaging, or is about to engage in criminal conduct.”  That’s the only time any police department in the United States can engage in stop and frisk actions.  Kennedy referenced the NYPD that was found to have engaged in racist policing after 80% of their stops were of Black and Brown people.  But even if the NOPD is to ramp up constitutional policing, it does not have the necessary manpower.

To utilize stop and frisk, the NOPD would need a force of 1500  officers.  The calls for service are now still going unanswered for hours in some cases. Many service calls require two officers and can last for two or more hours.  The NOPD just recently added 11 new officers but lost 17.  For the last three years the NOPD lost over 200 officers. And the ranks are around 900 on a good day. So unless Kennedy can quip up 500 officers, then stop and frisk is just impractical.

Non-Police Work

Police officers around the country spend most of their time performing non-criminal work.  What is that you just read?  Yes, most police officers spend most of their time doing things like responding to calls about abandoned cars, fireworks, homeless people and people experiencing mental health episodes.  A study of 911 calls in New Orleans found that fewer than 3% of calls related to situations involving violent crime.  In the murder capital of the country, police are tied up answering calls for service for really not even police work.  So adding stop and frisk to the plates of an understaffed  department burdened by superfluous service calls makes no sense.

You kinda get the feeling that Kennedy is really talking about aggressive, busting heads policing.  The reason the NOPD is under a consent decree is that it was once the most brutal and corrupt department in America. And the federal government stepped in to stop the madness.  Cops killing civilians. Cops beating civilians.  And cops being rude to people.  Cops threatening people.  They only served to protect their own interests. 

But the consent decree is a rigid and unforgiving set of rules and regulations.  Cops are now restricted to constitutional policing.  As funny as that sounds, this is a new era in the NOPD.  And ain’t no going back to the bad old days.  Stop and frisk is and has always been a problematic police action.  Stop and frisk outside of the Terry standard is illegal and unconstitutional.  But worse it lends itself to police abuse of power.  That is a universal truth.  In fact, departments that relied heavily on stop and frisk are almost all under federal consent decrees.  So any outside the lines and aggressive stop and frisk activities are likely not allowed under the consent decree.

Related: Crack and Kennedy are Whack

So while Kennedy is able to be funny, this is a serious issue.  Solving crime in New Orleans requires an investment in people not police.  Police simply clean up the mess.  A heavy presence might stop a small percentage, but long term crime prevention requires an investment in our people.  Read more about that next week.

@SenJohnKennedy No to Stop and Frisk in NOLA

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