Stop-and-frisk in New York City
The Stop-question-and-frisk program, or stop-and-frisk, in New York City, is a practice of the New York City Police Department in which police officers stop and question a pedestrian, then frisk them for weapons and other contraband; this is what is known in other places as the Terry stop. The rules for stop, question and frisk are found in New York State Criminal Procedure Law section 140.50, and are based on the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Terry v. Ohio. About 684,000 people were stopped in 2011. The vast majority of these people were African-American or Latino. Some judges have found that these stops are not based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
The broken windows theory is a criminology theory of the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism leads to additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime. Consider this example: An abandoned building with a few broken windows. Alone it poses no threat. However a few vandals come along and spot these broken windows and decide to break more of them. The building, because of its condition later gets vandalized with spray paint. Since it looks completely run down, a few homeless people break in. With time, they light fires, destroy the inner workings of the building and become squatters. This domino effect is the premise behind the broken windows theory. Minor crimes, if left unnoticed, will eventually escalate into bigger, more serious crimes. This is the same theory that the NYPD policy uses. The New York Police department's program intends on stopping people in high crimes areas to search for weapons and other substances. The program’s purpose is to remove guns off the street before they are used in more serious crimes. In the context of this allegory, the NYPD aims to fix the broken windows before the squatters get in.
The stop and frisk policy was adopted from English law in a number of American courts. In accordance with English common law, without statutory provisions, a police officer has the power to stop, question, and frisk suspects given reasonable circumstances. Based on a standard which holds less than probable cause, this power is granted upon the standard of reasonable suspicion. It is a question of circumstances of each individual case that determines whether reasonable detention and investigation is validated.
Legislation pertaining to constitutional requirements of stop and frisk practices were made into an area of concern by the Supreme Court when they encountered the case of Terry v. Ohio. While frisks were arguably illegal, before this point a police officer could only search someone either after arresting them or obtaining a search warrant. In the cases of Terry v. Ohio, Sibron v. New York, and Peters v. New York, the Supreme Court granted limited approval in 1968 to frisks conducted by officers lacking probable cause for an arrest in order to search for weapons if the officer believes the subject to be dangerous. The Court's decision made suspicion of danger to an officer grounds for a "reasonable search".
Stop-and-frisk is not necessarily a new invention. In the early 80's if a police officer had reasonable suspicion of a possible crime, he had the authority to stop someone and ask questions. If, based on the subject’s answers, the suspicion level did not escalate to probable cause for an arrest, the person would be released immediately. This was only a “stop-and-question". The “frisk” part of the equation did not come into play except on two occasions: (1)If possession of a weapon was suspected, or (2)if reasonable suspicion of a possible crime escalated to probable cause to arrest for an actual crime based on facts developed after the initial stop-and-question. That all changed in the 1990s when CompStat was developed under then Police Commissioner William Bratton. High-ranking police officials widely incorporated the “stop, question and frisk”.
In 1990, William J. Bratton became head of the New York City Transit Police. Bratton described George L. Kelling as his "intellectual mentor", and implemented a zero tolerance policy because of his contributions to the development of the “broken windows theory”. Former mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, hired Bratton as his police commissioner who adopted the strategy more widely for use in New York City. Giuliani used Bratton and the massive expansion of the New York police department to crack down on crimes. Giuliani's "zero-tolerance" included a crackdown on fare evasion, public drinking, public urination, graffiti artists and the “squeegee men" (who had been wiping windshields of stopped cars and aggressively demanding payment).
When police officers make stops, they fill out a form explaining the situation and details of the stop. After the officer goes off duty, these forms are then entered into a database. There are 2 ways the NYPD reports this stop-and-frisk data: a paper report released quarterly and an electronic database released annually. In 2002 there were 97,296 “stop and frisk” stops made by New York police officers. 17.6% resulted in fines or convictions. The number of stops increased dramatically in 2008 to over half a million, 88% of which did not result in any fine or conviction, peaking in 2011 to 685,724 stops, again with 88% resulting in no conviction. On average from 2002 to 2013 the number of individuals stopped without any convictions was 87.6%.
Part of the stop-question-and-frisk program is executed under Operation Clean Halls, a program wherein private property owners grant officers prior permission to enter a property for enforcement against criminal activity.
Some NYPD officers have objected publicly to the department's use of stop-question-and-frisk paperwork as a performance metric, which they claim encourages officers to overuse the practice and creates public hostility. Activists have described this as a form of quota, a characterization that department representatives have denied .
In about ninety percent of cases, no evidence of wrongdoing is found and the stopped person is let go.
New York police officer Adrian Schoolcraft made extensive recordings in 2008–2009 which documented orders from NYPD officials to search and arrest black people in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Schoolcraft, who brought accusations of misconduct to NYPD investigators, was transferred to a desk job and then involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. In 2010, Schoolcraft sent his tapes to the Village Voice, which publicized them in a series of reports. Schoolcraft alleges that the NYPD has retaliated against him for exposing information about the stop and frisk policy.
In response to allegations that the program unfairly targets African-American and Hispanic-American individuals, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stated that this is because African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are more likely to be violent criminals and victims of violent crime.
On June 17, 2012, several thousand people marched silently down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue from lower Harlem to Mayor Bloomberg's Upper East Side townhouse in protest of the stop-question-and-frisk policy. The mayor refused to end the program, contending that the program reduces crime and saves lives.
In early July 2012, stop-question-and-frisk protesters who videotaped police stops in New York City were targeted by police for their activism. A "wanted"-style poster hung in a police precinct headquarters, without any allegation of criminal activity, accused one couple of being "professional agitators" whose "purpose is to portray officers in a negative way and too [sic] deter officers from conducting their responsibilities", and police officers later surveilled and recorded the exit of persons from a "stop stop-and-frisk" meeting held at the couple's residence, allegedly in response to an emergency call of loitering and trespass.
On August 12, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the stop and frisk practice was unconstitutional and directed the Police to adopt a written policy to specify where such stops are authorized. Scheindlin appointed Peter L. Zimroth, a former chief lawyer for the City of New York, to oversee the program. Mayor Bloomberg indicated that the city will appeal the ruling.
Scheindlin had denied pleas for a stay in her overthrow of the policing policy, saying that "Ordering a stay now would send precisely the wrong signal. It would essentially confirm that the past practices... were justified and based on constitutional police practices. It would also send the message that reducing the number of stops is somehow dangerous to the residents of this city."
On October 31, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit blocked the order requiring changes to the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program and removed Judge Shira Scheindlin from the case. On November 9, 2013, the city asked a federal appeals court to vacate Scheindlin's orders. On November 22, 2013, the federal appellate court rejected the city's motion for a stay of the judge's orders. Although the appellate court rejected the city's motion for a stay, the case still continues.
Bill de Blasio, who succeeded Bloomberg as mayor in 2014, has pledged to reform the stop-and-frisk program, and is calling for new leadership at the NYPD, an inspector general, and a strong racial profiling bill.
On July 30, 2014, Southern District Court Judge Analisa Torres issued an Opinion and Order denying the police unions' motions to intervene, as well as granting the proposed modification of the District Court's August 2013 remedial decision. A week later, the City of New York filed a motion to withdraw its appeal. Then, on August 13, 2014, the Second Circuit announced the cases will be argued on October 15, 2014. On October 31, a three judge panel on the Second Circuit unanimously ruled against the unions and allowed the city to proceed with its overhaul of the police department.
The NY Daily news reports Officers assigned to the 75th Precinct in East New York and the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville stopped just 126 people in the first half of 2014, compared to 10,540 stops between January and June of 2011 shootings are up in East New York from 34 to 43 through Aug. 10, a spike of about 27% compared to last year. In Brownsville, shootings are up from 38 to 56, an increase of about 47% over the same time period.
While Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has expressed his doubts, an NYPD Brooklyn North supervisor told the Daily News there was a definite link between the increase in shootings and the dramatic dive in the number of stops.
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Later, he said of the frisk policy, 'to borrow a phrase from President Clinton, I believe the practice needs to be mended, not ended' — a reference to a phrase that Mr. Clinton used in a very different context, in a 1995 speech defending affirmative action programs.
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