By Olivia B. Waxman
September 22, 2016

During the taping of a Fox News town hall hosted by Sean Hannity on Wednesday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said he is open to a nationwide “stop and frisk” policy because it “worked incredibly well” in New York City.

As the New York Police Department defines “stop and frisk,” a police officer is “authorized” to stop, question or search a person when he or she “reasonably suspects that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a felony or a Penal Law misdemeanor.” The policy, often associated with the crime-fighting agendas of Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, came under fire in 2013, when federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin called it “indirect racial profiling,” ruling that it was being carried out in an unconstitutional way, resulting in “disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics.” The department revised its protocol in subsequent years, but the debate over the tactic has continued.

But, while the controversial practice has received much attention in the last few years, the debate over “stop and frisk” in New York has been going on for more than 50 years. As TIME reported in the March 20, 1964, issue:

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An article published exactly a year later reported that the constitutionality of the statute was still being questioned, even as other states had passed similar laws. For example, the Uniform Arrest Act in Delaware, Rhode Island and New Hampshire allowed police to detain anyone, based on a “reasonable ground to suspect,” for up to two hours.

In 1966, however, the New York Court of Appeals upheld the law, ruling in favor of a police officer whose use of the tactic seemed to have stopped a potential burglary, as TIME reported:

In 1968, the Supreme Court echoed that decision, holding that the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable search and seizure applies to stop-and-frisk laws, but that “a reasonably prudent officer” can use the technique to search for weapons, “regardless of whether he has probable cause to arrest that individual for crime or the absolute certainty that the individual is armed.” (The case law on that topic has continued to evolve in the years since.)

“Of the 27,061 people its officers frisked last year, more than 80% were unarmed,” TIME reported in 1999, “which suggests that the cops felt they needed little in the way of probable cause to stop someone.”

Write to Olivia B. Waxman at olivia.waxman@time.com.

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