As a retired police officer, I would like to offer my perspective about New York City's stop-and-frisk program, which I think is being discussed with more emotion than consideration of fact ("Former New York Gov. Pataki: Stop-and-frisk tactic has helped city," Web, Aug. 13). Stops and subsequent frisks do not occur in a vacuum. They are the result of a constantly changing river of information processed by an officer before he or she makes the decision to stop and then frisk someone.
Officers are trained to become familiar with what constitutes "normal" for their assigned areas so that when something out of the ordinary happens, it captures their attention. Inquiry into the unusual is nothing less than good police work.
It is also necessary to understand that "stop" is separate from "frisk." Stops occur when an officer, after processing his particular "river" of information, determines that something or someone requires further inquiry. The "frisk" takes place based on the immediate assessment of the officer, given the time, place, circumstances and demeanor of the person being frisked, and is done for the safety of the officer. For example, a juvenile stopped based on recent information about a theft of a pack of cigarettes could be a legitimate stop, but without additional reason to think the officer's safety could be in danger, a frisk might not be appropriate.
As a community, we must be careful about the tools we give law enforcement officers so they can do their jobs. We also must be careful not to take away the necessary tools that make them able to do their jobs. High standards, good training and proper supervision to ensure the proper use of the tools we give them is a better solution to crime than restricting the ability of the police to fulfill their duties.
ROBERT A. POGGI
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