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Stops, Frisks, Searches and the Constitution

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 3 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2004 Pages: 379-396
James J. Fyfe
Date Published
July 2004
18 pages
This article is a response to the study "Suspect Searches: Assessing Police Behavior Under the United States Constitution."
The author of this article states that the findings of Gould and Mastrofski, that 30 percent of the 115 searches studies were unconstitutional, is not only atrocious, but also troubling. He believes that Gould and Mastrofski are correct in asserting that citizens’ confidence in policing and government may be damaged by police disregard of law. As Justice Clark suggested in his Mapp vs. Ohio (1961) majority opinion, when police ignore the Constitution in their attempts to apprehend lawbreakers, their actions exact even greater costs. In the years since Mapp, there has been a resurgence of the counterargument to Justice Clark’s statement through many attempts to dumb down the search law. In the majority of cases, the only way to determine if police officers have acted in bad faith is to ask them, and like anybody else, police officers who act out of bad faith on the streets will rarely own up to their venality on the witness stand. Attempts to circumvent the fourth amendment have also been attempted. The Federal Government has subsidized “Operation Pipeline”, a program designed to enlist State police in attempts to interdict drugs being transported on major highways. However, it also assists in getting around the fourth amendment and into the closed trunks and luggage of highway users. This essay finds that although Gould and Mastrofski’s study has made an important contribution to literature, they need to do better at distinguishing between reasonable and unreasonable searches. They must also be more concise with their use of terminology. References