Stop! Don’t Frisk.


When I first read about the frisking of youth after 10PM if found in groups of more than two, I didn’t think it would be too bad. Especially, after I saw some pictures of weapons seized by the cops.


Then I went out on a weekend after the rule came into place, and I didn’t quite like how I felt when I came out of the club. On the one hand, you have the owners of Viva City gifting you a “forever unconditional access” card to the club ( their gift had/ has me floored) inviting you to come out as much as possible, and on the other hand, you are stressing out about being frisked. We were in a group of five that night- all adults, but we could have been “mistaken” for youth.

Who decides?

No, we didn’t get frisked that night, but I felt relieved only when we got inside our cars. It was the same feeling I used to get when I had a learner’s license and would spot a cop. My heart would beat faster, my palms would get sweaty, and I would have a mild panic attack. I don’t want to have to endure this every time I decide to have a fun night out.

A lot of people I’ve spoken to are not too pleased about this. Of course, we must have Thimphu become safer, but is this the best way?

The Opposition has made some noise about the frisking rule pointing out that it means suspension of freedom of movement and criminalisation of youth, but the arguments need to be stronger. There is a lot written about frisking in New York (Stop and Frisk), but there’s nothing, no material to support the claim that frisking youth will curb crime. Instead, I found so much else that suggest frisking youth is a bad idea:

The New York Times, September 2014

‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Is All but Gone From New York’

What Happens Without Stop-and-Frisk?

“No question about it, violent crime will go up,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in August 2013. But in fact, violent crime is down across the city in 2014.

Time. Com, July 2013

‘Stop and Frisk’ Stirs Up, Rather than Deters, Youth Crime’

The results, published in the journal Crime and Delinquency, are only the latest among a growing body of data suggesting that some juvenile justice tactics, including programs that rely on the “Scared Straight” harangues by prison inmates, boot camps and juvenile lockups could ultimately do more harm than good.

 By the end of the study, those who did have police contact early in the trial period reported committing five more delinquent acts on average, ranging from cutting classes to selling drugs and attacking people with a weapon, than those who were not stopped randomly by police. And the students who were arrested for any reason wound up committing around 15 more delinquent acts on average than those who were not.

A study called: “Stop and Frisk, The Human Impact“, was also done on this phenomenon in New York by the Centre for Constitutional Rights in 2012, and nothing positive was found. Here are a few (pertinent) things that the study discovered:

-A stop and frisk can leave people feeling unsafe, fearful of police, afraid to leave their homes, or re-living the experience whenever they see police. 

One in ten stops and frisks lead to an arrest, including many improper arrests. 

Other consequences of arrests are harder to measure, such as the impact of missing days of work or losing a job because of being unable to turn up for work, or what it means for a family if the breadwinner gets a criminal record.

-LGBTQ/GNC communities are heavily impacted by stops and frisks. Several people interviewed for this report described stops where police treated them in a cruel or degrading manner because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, or gender identity, or expression, or because they were gender non-conforming.

Kuensel reported on the implementation of the frisking rule on February 18th 2015:

RBP media liaison officer, Major Chogyel, said that the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (CCPC) already gives the police the right to stop and frisk persons.

As per chapter 8, section 166 of the code, a police officer can upon reasonable suspicion of involvement in a criminal offense, stop a person moving about at odd hours in a public place, and a person who cannot give a satisfactory account of him/herself.

 During the press conference, the police chief also said that individuals could also be frisked if police personnel find them behaving suspiciously.

Is there a standard definition of “reasonable suspicion” and “suspiciously”? If there is, I’d like to hear or read about it. If not, who decides what is “reasonable suspicion” or “suspiciously”?

Let’s not shy away from talking about the n number of times several cops have abused their authority, and the n number of times innocent bystanders have been criminalised (and beaten up) just because they were at the scene of a fight. How about certain youth fitting a stereotype, and therefore getting mistreated by cops? “That’s a punk or a druggie- definitely a suspect.” No?

I believe that initiatives like the Police Youth Partnership and the Community Police of the Royal Bhutan Police are wonderful. It’s all about getting the community and youth involved in a healthy manner. These initiatives are not trust deficient unlike frisking.

Show me studies, tell me stories…of success with Stop and Frisk. Until then, I will remain unconvinced that this is the best way.

5 thoughts on “Stop! Don’t Frisk.

  • The decision of the government to enforce such a law reflects upon two things on the incumbent rule: insecurity and unintelligence. First, while every government has always viewed our youth as the “future” leaders of a nation, it is also fact that they haven’t allowed for youth culture to evolve or even exist. This is a side effect of having a conservative government at every election. This leads to the question, why did the Youth who form a major part of the electoral even vote this government in? As a youth who was sidelined due to age restriction in both the elections, I can confirm that the main reason is that our elections never had debates that were designed for the youth to make up their minds! – Something I am determined to change in the next election. The PDP government which based a majority of its votes on voters who were disgruntled with the previous government than anything else, came to power as a Populist party promising pay increases, universal employment, etc. It is therefore very weird that they are passing this bill. It is build up to the next elections that this party too will have lost popular faith and interest.
    Second, while the rising crime rate in the country is worrying, it is necessary to address these issues where the are supposed to be addressed. The government has yet again failed to be intelligible and has resolved to the easy way out. It was necessary to question the causes of violence. Mental Health, Drug Abuse, Unemployment, Economic Severity – dozens of causes can be easily identified for the rising crime rate and yet they decide to enforce marshall law and set pseudo-curfews (let’s face it, the purpose of a nightlife is social bonding and it is highly unlikely that people will do that in couples).
    I can’t imagine what must be in their minds to pass a bill like this – if evil is present then evil will find a way out; the trick is to fight the evil and not the manifestation. What this means is, if one is to abuse drugs, they are equally likely to do it in couples as in crowds! Let’s fight this injustice from the government, the precedent this sets is dangerous. We are supposed to be a progressive GNH nation!

  • Frisking youth is beyond reason and rationalization. On what grounds do police decide that person should be frisked. Malcolm Gladwel in Tipping Point explains that the epidemics of crimes are down not due to strict laws but usually due to subtle things like cleaning the graffiti in the subway. Not only the New York subway crimes ebb away, it plummeted.

    Our police and the law makers should find other suitable means to curb the crime. It’s like treating a disease without finding the cause. If treatment is wrong, the disease will unnecessarily flare up.

  • This is ridiculous action taken by the law makers on the stupid proposal put up by the chief of police ! how can you do this to our young generation who will be running the country in the near future . This is no good for the country. There are many ways to stop crime ….. so STOP frisking !!!

  • The cops frisking the youth will be not an good idea at all the time because it is just like treating ailments without knowing symptoms of it.Further more it would create a more fuss in the communities.we should learn from other society,if the law does not work in the Newyork city it will not work for our country too because biologically the emotional mindset of the people is alike.So,stop frisking and let us not disturb the GNH prevailing society with it

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