Editorial: Trump’s foolish solution to Chicago’s crime problem

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump | AP

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Donald Trump knows nothing about good police work or the Bill of Rights or, most certainly, Chicago.

The Republican presidential candidate did our city no good at all last week when he called on the police here to disregard civil rights and bring back “stop-and-frisk,” a practice in which officers stop and search people for no legally justifiable reason.

Trump’s solution to Chicago’s violent crime problem violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and would further damage relations between the Chicago Police and citizens, especially minority groups. It was a typically uninformed and irresponsible Trump comment, and it came just one day before Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in a major speech, urged a far more thoughtful — and constitutional — approach to making Chicago a less violent city by getting at root causes.

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Stop-and-frisk would only deepen distrust of the police and fuel the fury that built after a series of police-involved shootings, most notably of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014. As David Axelrod, President Barack Obama’s former adviser, said on CNN, bringing stop-and-frisk back to Chicago would be “like taking a can of kerosene and pouring it over a fire.”

Once again Trump has revealed his solution to any threat to public safety, real or imagined: Throw civil rights to the wind and human rights out the window and punish whole groups — immigrants, refugees and now thousands of Chicagoans — regardless of individual guilt or innocence. In Trump’s book, undocumented immigrants from Mexico are heavily rapists and murderers, and desperate refugees from Syria are heavily infiltrated with terrorists. Neither charge is close to true, but Trump just says anything.

Trump seemed to suggest that the police would not stop and frisk just anybody, without cause, because “they know who has a gun [and] who shouldn’t have a gun. They understand that.”

But the facts say otherwise, unless Chicago cops possess skills of intuition that New York cops lack. A study of nearly 4.5 million stop-and-frisk cases in New York showed that the vast majority of those who were stopped — 88 percent — had been doing nothing wrong. That no doubt left an awful lot of law-abiding New Yorkers feeling angry about being treated like criminals. So much for good community relations.

No study has ever shown that stop-and-frisk results in lower crime rates, but either way that does not matter. In a free society, there is no place for cops rousting people on the street pretty much as they see fit. That’s the stuff of police states.

Last year, the Chicago Police worked out a deal with the American Civil Liberties Union to better regulate stop-and-frisk, which had gotten way out of hand. In the summer of 2014 alone, the police here had made more than 250,000 stops without arrests. Chicago was making four times as many stops per 1,000 residents as New York. Now police are to be trained better to make sure they’re stopping people only when “there is reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct” and detailed records are to be kept of every stop.

Donald Trump’s solution to all safety and security problems is to demonize whole groups of people, treating everybody shabbily for the actions of a few. He shows no sense of compassion. He appears incapable of empathy. He slaps people around.

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