Op eds

This op-ed by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) first appeared in The New Orleans Advocate on Feb. 28, 2018.    

We're a little more than six weeks into 2018, and 39 people already have been murdered in New Orleans.  By the time you're reading this, the death toll probably will have climbed higher.

Already this year, someone's been robbed at knifepoint in the middle of the afternoon outside St. Louis Cathedral.  Already this year, a 91-year-old woman has suffered the indignity of getting her purse snatched on Carondelet Street.  Already this year, a young woman has been doused with Mace and robbed in the Garden District.

New Orleans' crime rate is stealing our city's soul and keeping funeral homes far too busy.  A lot of tourists are beginning to question whether they should take their families to New Orleans.  I can't blame them.  Some New Orleans families are probably hesitant to go out at night.  I can't blame them, either.

I was dismayed recently - but not surprised - to read a misleading take on stop-and-frisk in NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Columnist Jarvis DeBerry acknowledged that crime is frighteningly bad in New Orleans with alarming violence taking place every day of the week. However, his solution is to tie the hands of police officers.

Let's get one thing out of the way. Stop-and-frisk is constitutional.  It was declared constitutional in 1968.  If you do the math, that's 50 years.

The officer thought their behavior was suspicious.  He walked up to them and started talking to them.  They mumbled responses.  The officer patted them down, for his safety, and found two handguns.  He arrested them for illegally carrying concealed weapons.

The court found that the men were acting suspiciously and that the officer was correct in searching them, even though he did not have "probable cause" to arrest them.  Since then, cities across this country have given their officers permission to stop and frisk on the basis of suspicious behavior -- the legal term is "reasonable suspicion."  Ever since, liberals have been losing their minds. 

The problem with our country today is that we tie our police officers' hands and then lament the soaring crime rate.

If you go to a concert, the courthouse or the state Capitol, you walk through a metal detector and hand over your belongings to be searched.  At the airport, you wait in a long line and then submit to a pat-down while your things are whisked through an X-ray machine. We may complain, but we all know it's for our own good.  It's the way of an often-dangerous world.  In order to protect ourselves from terrorists, we have to put up with a little annoyance and embarrassment.  It's a fair and necessary trade-off. 

Stop-and-frisk is under attack across this country. Chicago used to stop and frisk people engaged in suspicious activity.  Then police officers were forced to spend nearly an hour filling out a report in order to stop and frisk someone who was acting suspiciously, and the stops tapered off.  You know what's still chugging along at an alarming rate?  Crime.  In 2016, there were more than 700 homicides and 4,300 shootings in Chicago after stops and frisks dropped 80 percent.  That's two killings and nearly a dozen shootings a day.

Let me be very clear.  I'm not advocating the violation of anyone's constitutional rights.  I'm not advocating racial profiling.  (The New Orleans Police Department is majority black, by the way.) All I'm advocating is allowing our police officers to exercise their good judgment in the war on violent crime.  If they see something suspicious, they should be able to ask questions and ensure, for their own safety and ours, that a weapon's not going to be pulled on them.  They should be allowed to do what's been constitutional for half a century.