Stop & Frisk

Years ago, when I was an Assistant States Attorney, I occasionally rode along with Chicago Police. One day, we were driving on West 18th Street. Suddenly, the officer in the front seat pointed at a car going in the opposite direction and hissed “They’re dirty.” We squealed a U-turn, going boots and saddles (lights and siren). The car stopped, officers hopped out – guns drawn. In the car were two gang bangers (both with records), drugs and two sawed off shotguns.  I often wonder whose life was saved that day.

New York City’s murder rate has fallen from the thousands to a few hundred thanks to stop & frisk “with reasonable suspicion.”  The bad guys don”t know when they’ll be stopped so they’re not packing.  Chicago on the other hand is the murder capital of the (un)civilized world. Thousands of shooting victims. Many innocent.  Many spontaneous.  Explosions of gunfire.  Especially in poorer neighborhoods.  But of course Chicago doesn’t have stop & frisk.  As it “may offend.”  Result?  Gangs rule.  Senseless violence.  Mayhem.  Butchery.  Death.  And Chicago continues sliding into the abyss.

Police are not the problem.  Criminals are the problem.  The bad guys.  Chicago gun laws are the most stringent in the country yet the bad guys have guns.  But in Chicago, there’s no deterrent for the bad guys who carry them.  And then use them. 

Obviously it’s a tough situation.  There are no easy solutions to this problem but ignoring stop & frisk as an option is madness.  I cannot fathom the mindset of those misguided souls who oppose stop & frisk with reasonable suspicion.  If they want to debate the statistics or the Fourth Amendment issues, they will lose.  

Streets & Sanitation

For 5 plus years, I was an Assistant States Attorney – Felony Trial Division in Chicago.  My daughter was born in the middle of a really nasty 2 week murder jury trial (for which I am still called back every 3 years to testify in parole hearings against release of the killer).  Donna went into labor at about 2:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning.  I called my friend and partner in the case and said “Charlie – Donna’s having the baby. You’re gonna have to handle things today.” His response “Congrats but be here tomorrow.”   

The next day, I showed up at the office with my arms packed with files and three boxes of cigars.  So I’m in my office passing out cigars, smiling, yabbering, guys wandering in and out when suddenly a large chap appeared at my door.  He was wearing overalls, high rubber boots, thick shirt and a hat.  He leaned against the door frame.  “Is there a Scott Petersen here” he asked.  We all turned.  I raised my hand.  “Yeah.  That’s me.”  “You missin’ anything?” he asked.  I felt pockets.  Jacket.  My checkbook!  It’s gone.  “My checkbook” I said.  He held it up waggling it between two fingers.  “I found it on the street.”    I quickly dipped into my wallet for a twenty.  “Here” – I said taking the checkbook.  “Thank you. I apprec. . . ” “No.  That’s okay,”  he held up his hand.  “I’m with Streets and Sanitation.  I want you guys to know — we have a lot of good people in Streets and Sanitation.”    I then said “My wife just had a baby.  Can I offer you some cigars?”  He looked at the open box.  “That I will take.”  He grabbed a large handful and disappeared.

It’s funny how things happen – and there are moments of intense clarity.  Obviously I’ll never forget the birth of my daughter (I was there 🙂 ) but I’ll also never forget the integrity of that stranger.  Streets & Sanitation. . . .