End Stop & Frisk



Welcome to Counterpoint: an online column concerning issues you care about from a different perspective: my own.

My name is Michael Bekesha. I ran against our Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) in November’s election. I ran because I believe we need diversity of thought on the Council. During my 13-month campaign, I had dozens if not hundreds of incredible conversations with our neighbors; each one concerning important yet difficult issues facing our community. And, in almost each instance, we realized there may be another way to tackle a problem. Robust and civil discussion is essential.

Many of you may have heard of me. But, based on my vote totals, perhaps not that many of you. Or maybe you did; but didn’t agree with what I had to say.

The goal of this column is to help spark dialogue, present an argument outside the mainstream, raise a position that may not otherwise be considered or simply challenge the status quo. While no topic is too controversial or off limits, I don’t intend to settle scores or engage in personal attacks.

With that, our first topic is stop-and-frisk.

Stop & Frisk

Like me, if you are white and live in Ward 6, you probably don’t even realize MPD still employs stop-and-frisk. It does. It’s MPD General Order 304.10. And, it is the same policy that was highly touted by Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg in New York City in the nineties and aughts and recently recommended for greater use in Chicago by President Trump.

If you’re curious about where stop-and-frisk occurs and its frequency, visit this great interactive map put together by WUSA9.

Since MPD hasn’t been collecting the data necessary to know how prevalent and ineffective the practice is in the District, let’s look to New York City and Chicago. In New York City, at least 2.4 million stop-and-frisks took place between 2009 and 2012. Of those, only 150,300, 6.26 percent, resulted in arrests. Stated another way, 2.2 million stop-and-frisks ended without an arrest. Similarly, in Chicago, during a four month period in 2014, there were more than 250,000 stop-and-frisks that didn’t result in an arrest. In short, millions of residents have been “unjustly subjected to embarrassment or even humiliation.”

And, not surprising to anyone, most of the residents who’ve been stop-and-frisked have been black or brown. Based on the limited information we have in the District, approximately 80 percent of residents stop-and-frisked in the District are black. And, if the incidents are comparable to those in New York City or Chicago and there is no reason to expect they wouldn’t, most of the incidents probably didn’t end in arrest. This couldn’t be any clearer than in the horrific stop-and-frisk of three, young black boys between the ages of 9 and 12 in our neighborhood before Christmas.

So, beyond the obvious, why does this matter? First, contrary to general opinion, as cities such as New York City have ceased to employ stop-and-frisk, crime has also decreased to a record low. As Kyle Smith conceded in the National Review, “Today in New York City, use of stop-and-frisk…has crashed. Yet the statistics are clear: Crime is lower than ever.

It’s possible that crime would be even lower had stop-and-frisk been retained, but that’s moving the goalposts. I and others argued that crime would rise. Instead, it fell. We were wrong.” Second, stop-and frisk erodes trust with the community and undermines the legitimacy of the police. This, of course, leads to less cooperation, and results in more dangerous streets.

Stop-and-frisk should be banned. The Council should pass legislation prohibiting MPD from employing this racist and ineffective practice. It should also follow the NYC’s Council’s lead and introduce a law requiring the MPD to be more transparent, accountable, and courteous. It is 2019 – not 1999 or even 2009 – after all, and MPD should no longer employ failed practices of the past.

If you like what you read, hate what you read, or want to hear about a specific issue, please email me at mbekesha@gmail.com. Until next time.

Michael Bekesha has been a Ward 6 resident since 2010. He ran for the Ward 6 Council seat in November 2018. He, his wife, and their rescue dog Sprocket live in Navy Yard. He considers himself an Urban Republican. He may be reached at mbekesha@gmail.com.