Tag Archives: Elites

NYPD Stop & Frisk; Protected Ideology of the Elites

The Critical legal studies theory was an ideological movement stemming from the late 60’s movement of civil rights and anti-establishment (Pavlich, 2011, p.117). It viewed law as a political ideology which sustained itself by supporting interests of the group or class that created it. The legal system maintained the status quo which in turn depicted the enshrined hierarchy power relations and inequalities present in society. Law was virtually seen as a tool to oppress certain classes of people and maintain the elite in their positions within the social hierarchy. We can correlate such concepts to the NYPD stop and frisk program and witness such inequalities and social conflicts. A big component of classical critical legal studies rested on the concept of “alienation,” where certain individuals don’t have the ability of reach power and certain freedoms due to the powerful oppressing the less well off (Pavlich, 2011, p. 120). We can think of it as Caucasian supremacy, where interest of the elite are of more importance and the institutions and social structures that are in place embrace such power, which leads to social inequalities and racism. This applies to the stop and frisk program where minorities are the ones to be seemingly living under the economic alienation and thus are likely to be racially profiled. The program seems to come from the collection of beliefs and prejudices that embraces injustice with a mask of legitimacy. It is a tool to maintain the status quo and keep the powerful in their correct place within the social hierarchy.

The example with the sergeants who are in command depicted critical legal studies’ concept of how mainstream legal thought supports inequalities and racism. The commanders put pressure on their officers to do unreasonable things to meet quotas and even embraced a tone of violating rights. They normalized it. It stemmed from the top down (hierarchy). As a side effect, the pressure on officers lead to them to have no choice but to follow the status quo and lean towards oppressing certain classes of individuals and further the interest of the ruling class (privileged).

The only part of feminist jurisprudence and critical race theory that could correlate to the NYPD stop and frisk program is the agenda to have all people of gender, class and race equally valued (Pavlich, 2011, p. 125). The feminist agenda would be difficult to install within the NYPD program since the issues of class differences and race have developed overtime and established within the socio-capitalist societies. With pressure put on by an ideology (NYPD department), the police officers will develop their own perspective of who would looks suspicious depending on their own social upbringing as well. This in turn will most likely reflect mainstream society’s views and point the finger at those that are statistically likely to offend: minorities and the poor.

Consequently, although the law and the NYPD stop and frisk program is another tool masked to be proactive, it fails within itself as the ideology of the interest group that created it maintained the status quo of the elite. It separated trust and rapports from the citizens and police and lead to racial profiling. However, it does give us a view of how mainstream legal thought can depict social inequalities present within legal institutions and how certain established ideologies keep being protected.


Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.




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