Last year, more than 46,000 women were stopped and nearly 16,000 were frisked by New York City Police officers-- a source of embarrassment and, some women say, sexual intimadation, reported the New York Times.
Of the 16,000 who were frisked, guns were found in 59 cases, that's 0.13-- less than one percent of all searches, further evidence for the argument by civil rights leaders that the bulk of stop-and-frisk encounters are legally unjustified.
Nevertheless, the laws governing street stops are blind to gender, and the training does not draw a distinction between male and female suspects, Police Inspector Kim Y. Royster said.
Male officers are permitted to frisk a woman if they reasonably suspect that she may be armed with a dangerous weapon. A frisk can involve police officers sliding their hands over the external clothing, focusing on “the waistband, armpit, collar and groin areas.”
Bronx resident Shari Archibald, who was stopped and frisked during a field search recently, two male officers fished inside of her handbag and pulled out a tampon and then a sanitary napkin, crinkling the waxy orange wrapper between his fingers in search of drugs.
Next he pulled out a tray of foil-covered pills marked “drospirenone/ethinylestradiol," When the officer, suspicious, asked Archibald what it was, Archibald explained, exasperated, "birth control pills."
“Yes, it’s intrusive, but wherever a weapon can be concealed is where the officer is going to search,” Royster said. That search is not random; it is based on information provided to an officer, like a detailed description of an armed suspect, or actions that raise an officer’s reasonable suspicion that the woman may be armed, she added.
“Safety has no gender,” she said. “When you are talking about the safety of an officer, the first thing he or she is going to do is mitigate that threat.”
Also, it's important to note that although the police stops of women yielded very few guns, they did produce 3,993 arrests last year.
How do you feel about male officers stopping and frisking women? As long as the policy stands, should women be regarded equally when officers conduct searches under reasonable suspicion? Or should the policy be done away with altogether?
Tell us in the comments.