Stop-and-frisk in New York City
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The stop-question-and-frisk program in New York City is a practice of the New York City Police Department by which police officers stop and question hundreds of thousands of pedestrians annually, and frisk them for weapons and other contraband. 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 theory behind stop and frisk
The broken windows theory is a criminology theory of the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism 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 tagged with spray paint. Looking 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 in to 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 other words, the NYPD aims to fix the broken window before the squatters get in.
The beginnings of stop and frisk
The stop and frisk program also aims to promote proactive policing. Proactive policing is the practice of deterring criminal activity by showing police presence and engaging the public to learn their concerns, thereby preventing crime from taking place in the first place . It began with former Mayor David Dinkins 1990-1993. New York, being the dangerous crime infested city that it was, needed a turn around. Dinkins attempted to do this with a 1.8 billion dollar plan to fight fear in New York by hiring 8,000 new officers. NYC.gov shows the murder rate in New York City peaked in 1990 and dropped 30% by 1994 however most of the credit goes to Dinkins' successor, former mayor Rudy Giuliani.
New York’s transition from crime to safety
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 crackdown 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).
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.
Activist and legal response
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.
Bill de Blasio, who will succeed 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.
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- "On October 31, 2013, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Shira Scheindli blocked the order requiring changes to the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program and removed the judge from the case". Fox News. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
- "Attorneys for New York City asked a federal appeals court Saturday to vacate a judge's orders that require the police department to change its stop-and-frisk practice that critics argue unfairly targets minorities.". ABC News. Retrieved 10 November 2013.