Hey, Donald: Miami Gardens Ran the Worst Stop-and-Frisk Program in America, and It Didn't Work

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Donald Trump lied far more often than it seemed during last night's presidential debate. Sure, he was called out for his obvious untruths, such as misstating his initial support for the Iraq War and pretending that crime is at epidemic-level rates when it's actually hitting a low point. But he wasn't criticized for a host of other, silly inaccuracies: He misstated, for example, that he never said global warming is a Chinese plot — when he said exactly that. 
But one lie truly sticks out: He's a big fan (at least until he changes his mind) of stop-and-frisk police programs, which allow cops to stop and search anyone they'd like as long as they have probable cause. Repeatedly, Trump said stop-and-frisk programs "work." Trump said stop-and-frisk "brought the crime rate way down" in New York City.

This is untrue, and perhaps the best proof rests in nearby Miami Gardens.

In practice, stop-and-frisk programs are racist: Black people (and people of color in general) are stopped far more often than whites. Despite what Trump said last night, the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program was declared unconstitutional in 2013. A federal judge said the NYPD's program violated the Fourth Amendment rights of blacks. (The Fourth Amendment protects people from "unreasonable searches and seizures.")

“Blacks are likely targeted for stops based on a lesser degree of objectively founded suspicion than whites,” Judge Shira A. Scheindlin wrote. And despite what Trump said last night, stop-and-frisk did not make New York safer.

New York City is often seen as the epicenter of America's stop-and-frisk problem. As such, it's often villainized as the worst stop-and-frisk program in America. But that distinction might actually belong to the program Miami Gardens Police ran between 2010 and 2013. According to a 2014 Fusion investigation (sparked by a Miami Herald article), Miami Gardens was running a stop-and-frisk project that put New York City's to shame.

According to Fusion, Miami Gardens made 99,980 stops of 65,328 people in five years. That's more than half the population of Miami Gardens, a proportion that puts New York City's program to shame. Children under 18 were stopped 11,443 times. More than 1,000 people over 70 years old were also stopped.

The City of Miami, which has four times the population of Miami Gardens, made only 3,753 stops in the same period. 

Subjects in Miami Gardens were stopped for a host of bogus reasons: Police said they had stopped one man for "wearing a red hoodie" in a high-crime area, for example. That man, Denzel Flowers, said he had been stopped 27 times. He also said that he had been arrested four times before the age of 18 — but that he was never convicted of a crime.

It was clear, then, that Miami Gardens had simply criminalized living in its heavily black neighborhoods.

"The result is that you have a majority black population that are all being subjected to very heavy-handed police tactics that result in a public record being created either of them being stopped or them being arrested,” Miami-Dade public defender Carlos Martinez said at the time. “I don’t know anywhere else in the country where that’s happening.”

And even if you ignore the program's insane racism, it didn't actually make anyone safer. Despite the fact that you could not envision a more comprehensive stop-and-frisk program if you tried, New Times reported Miami Gardens' homicide rate in 2015 eclipsed that of both New York and Chicago.

Where, then, is the "success" Trump mentioned last night? He boasts often about how this country needs to "expand" stop-and-frisk. In practice, American cities would quickly begin to look a lot like Miami Gardens, which appears a heck of a lot like failure.

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