President Elect Donald Trump touted stop and frisk as an effective tool against crime during his run for president. Many of his opponents labeled him as a racist for heralding this policy. Even though local law enforcement do not take orders directly from the President, there is one thing Donald Trump can do day one to increase the use of stop and frisk among law enforcement across the nation without Congress.
President Elect Trump derided the “War on Police” during his campaign. President Obama launched 24 civil rights investigations against state and local policy agencies, most recently into the Baltimore Police Department. These investigations almost always allege, at least in part, excessive use of stop and frisk. His Department of Justice issued a report for the Police Department of Ferguson, Missouri, alleging “Ferguson Police Department engages in a pattern of unconstitutional stops…in violation of the fourth amendment.” In 2014 the Department of Justice claimed at least 75% of the stop and frisks that local police in Newark, New Jersey conducted were illegal. These DOJ investigations have caused push back from local police. For example, in 2013, after an investigation by the DOJ into Miami, Florida police practices, the Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz wrote “there is clearly a disconnect between the USDOJ and the reality of what our Miami police officers confront on a daily basis.”
These investigations sometimes lead to police departments voluntarily changing their ways or an informal agreement. What really marked President Obama’s administration, was an increased use of consent decrees. A consent decree is when the Department of Justice forces direct federal regulation on local police departments. President Obama has secured 11 consent decrees in his term of president, compared to 3 during President George W. Bush’s term. The Department of Justice is part of the executive branch, and President Trump could instantly halt existing investigations and decline to start future ones.
President Obama has worked to limit stop and frisk throughout his presidency with increased federal oversight of local police. The Department of Justice has been President Obama’s main tool to influence police behavior. President Trump could change this, day one, without Congress.