A variation of a program that made headlines in New York when a judge questioned its legality has been quietly working in Pine Bluff for months, according to Police Chief Jeff Hubanks.
During Tuesday’s monthly meeting of Coffee with the Chiefs, the Rev. Jesse Turner brought up the subject of “stop and frisk” as a way to get guns off the street, and asked Hubanks if the program had been considered here.
Turner is the executive director of Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, which sponsors the monthly event.
“The short answer is yes,” Hubanks said. “Back in February or March, the mayor brought it up.”
He said the program has an upside — that is, it takes guns off the street — but a downside as well, and that downside is the potential appearance of racial profiling.
“We took a look at what New York was doing and eliminated the elements that give the appearance of racial profiling,” Hubanks said.
Stop and frisk refers to a program of stopping people and patting them down for weapons, even if no probable cause exists for the stop.
He said the federal courts have ruled that stop and frisk is not a search.
“Where the problems are is how to determine who to make contact with,” Hubanks said. “We’ve been doing our version since March and I’ll wager you haven’t heard about it because our officers do it right.”
Earlier in the program, Hubanks described the department as “a young crew.”
“In 2012, 50 officers left; that was one-third of the department,” Hubanks said. “We’re back up to full strength now but that means that a lot of the force is young.
“They’re young, they’re smart and they think before they act, mostly,” Hubanks said.
He said that in order to do its job, the department needs the trust of the community and the fastest way to destroy that trust is to make citizens think officers don’t trust them.
Asked for an example of how the department approaches stop and frisk, Hubanks said that in previous years, when a complaint was received, the approach was to send a bunch of officers into an area and stop everyone who was in that area.
“Probably 90 percent of those people were just trying to get from point A to point B,” he said. “Now we try to determine what house the problem is coming from and deal with that.
“That’s community-oriented policing and I like the results we have now,” Hubanks said. “Crime is down. A lot of the bad guys are in jail and working their way through the system.”
In asking about stop and frisk, Turner said that since 1997, the city has had “over 200 homicides and 98 percent of them have been black on black.
“If we can get the guns off the streets of Pine Bluff, that’s going to benefit the African-American community,” Turner said.