CHESTER TOWNSHIP, PA — Donald Trump didn't mention his support for a national stop-and-frisk policy during a campaign rally Thursday, sticking instead to his support of police and the need for law and order as part of his pitch to black and Latino voters.
A day earlier at a town hall event in Ohio, Trump endorsed the practice as a way to reduce violence, particularly in black communities, telling a voter: "I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well, and you have to be proactive.”
But at least one federal judge has declared the practice unconstitutional, and studies have shown that not only do stop-and-frisk tactics disproportionately target black and Latino communities, they are not a particularly useful crime deterrent.
Still, Trump has made it a center piece of his law and order pitch to voters, going so far as to tell Fox and Friends that police in Chicago should use it to take guns away from suspected criminals.
While supporters at Trump’s rally on Thursday were at least somewhat supportive of his stop-and-frisk plan, most had reservations and acknowledged that it raises grave constitutional concerns.
Mike Gaudiuso, called stop-and-frisk "a double-edged sword."
"If you don’t stop and frisk, you might accidentally overlook somebody, and if you do, it raises all these constitutional rights complaints,” which he said are legitimate.
Still, the 48-year-old structural designer said “sometimes, harsh situations mean you have solutions that aren’t popular.”
Erik Verniere, a teacher in Newark who immigrated to the United States from Denmark 12 years ago, took a similar stance on stop-and-frisk.
“In Europe during certain times and certain areas, we had something similar to stop and frisk. And I understand that the constitutional question about it. I’m not a complete supporter of it," he said. "From a constitutional perspective, can you just stop and frisk? No. But I can see in certain areas and certain areas, like when there’s riots and so forth, I think it’s justifiable. Because sometimes you have to be realistic."
But any misgivings he may have about stop-and-frisk aren’t going to keep him from voting for Trump.
Trump's speech was also relatively heavy on policy proposals, with mention of education reform, energy production, ending trade deals he deems unfair, and more general regulatory reform.
"A lot of people ask me, how can somebody like you, who’s from Denmark, vote for somebody like Donald Trump? The establishment with Hillary Clinton and the Bushes, I see them as the same thing. And they’re going to sell out this country … I don’t want to see what happened in Europe happen here in the United States,” he said, pointing to refugee asylum policies as one of his chief concerns.
Verniere’s distrust of the “establishment” and it’s support of less stringent immigration standards than those proposed by Trump is what led him to ultimately decide to vote the Republican nominee.
“You know when I actually decided to vote for Trump? When George Bush senior said he was, you know, going to vote for Hillary. Because I just don’t trust the establishment Republican Party,” Verniere said.
Other Trump supporters, however, were much more skeptical of the plan, if the not the candidate.
“I live in the hood. Everybody has a piece, it’s ridiculous,” said Alan Shuman, a 76-year-old retired house painter from South Philadelphia.
And while he stressed that “I’m all for police, I’m all for blue lives matter,” he said he isn’t comfortable with giving them the kind of unchecked authority Trump is proposing.
"Stop-and-frisk, I don’t think that’s cool," he said. "if they’re wearing cameras and have a good reason, then fine. But they shouldn’t have carte blanche to do whatever they want.”
Shuman argued police already routinely abuse their authority — and would likely do so under stop-and-frisk.
“I know a lot of cops, and a lot of them were bullies in high school … they’re like pit bulls. You don’t want them out there unleashed," he said.
Still, like many here, Shuman said people “have to listen to the police. If they tell you to stop, you stop. You don’t run away.”
His solution to police brutality?
“They’ve got [body] cameras for people now, too. So, wear one, and if they give you shit, sue ‘em.”
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
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