Time was, a cop couldn’t search you without a warrant or probable cause. The pesky Constitution, you know. They couldn’t take your property either, without first obtaining a court order; the Constitution calls it “due process of law.” Most Americans seem to believe in those provisions and a lot of us still think they’re in force. Probably they are, in smaller cities and towns around the Midwest and a few other places. Red states.
NY Police Defend Frisking With Improved Crime Numbers is a more up-to-date picture of things as they are in blue states and large cities these days. Commonly, if a cop stops a driver who either seems suspicious or uncooperative, a pretext is found for a search; if that turns up a gun or large amount of cash, the car, gun and cash are routinely siezed and too often never returned regardless of the fate of the driver, though more are reclaiming their cars now than was the case for a while. Guns and cash still regularly disappear in too many places. That’s background; the NYPD’s frisking is the next step.
You’re walking along minding your own business when a cop stops you, demands ID and pats you down. Again, too much cash or a gun are big trouble and you may never see the cash again, though you have some chance of reclaiming the gun if it’s legally yours and permitted. But you’re in for a long hassle. We used to think the cops did things like these in police states, not in America. “Your papers!” from a cop was a movie staple of Nazi Germany or the USSR. America has joined the rest; it’s not only the NYPD. You can expect now to be stopped for a random, warrantless search on Federal highways, a new program of Homeland Security’s TSA folk. If their conduct at airports is reported accurately, they’ll be just as happy to find you with cash and guns as the cops.
The ubiquitous cell phones’ photo and recording ability is another heavy-handed, unconstitutional response area for cops; recording them at work seems to infuriate them. Public servants doing their duty in public may be recorded by the public but doing that has led to arrests, camera confiscations, intimidation, trumped-up charges and physical abuse on increasingly numerous occasions, particularly when they’ve been recorded beating up handcuffed prisoners or other mischievous behavior..
Americans and Brits haven’t thought of their police the way they’re perceived in most other countries. They’ve been seen them as friends and protectors, in spite of the occasional traffic ticket or venal bad cop. Elsewhere, they’re traditionally feared and with reason. New York doesn’t need ‘stop and frisk’ to lower crime nor should cops anywhere be able to benefit from confiscating citizens’ property. These are tools of the police state. The Constitution forbade such things for good reasons but unless constitutions are guarded by citizens, they don’t endure. The L.A. riots followed folks filming police beating Rodney King; this is not to advocate riots, but the level of cops beating folks in L.A. noticeably dropped for a long time after that…