Updated March 3, 2015 9:51 PM

NYPD issues new stop and frisk rules for officers


Charles Eckhert  
The NYPD invited the media to their training facility at Rodman's Neck to see three different simulated training scenarios where they use, and did not use, stop-question-frisk. (June 2012)   

NYPD officers may no longer stop and frisk a person based on a general description -- such as age and race -- or because someone was in a broadly defined "high-crime area," according to a police directive issued late Monday.

In a message that went out to all NYPD commands at 5:31 p.m. Monday, Commissioner William Bratton said cops now must follow the new stop-and-frisk practices issued by New York City after last year's settlement of a bitterly fought federal lawsuit.

The new procedures were immediately criticized by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association as making the job of cops more dangerous.
The new practices came after U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan ruled in August 2013 that police stop-and-frisk practices appeared to violate the constitutional rights of mainly black and Hispanic men. Scheindlin was later removed from the case by a federal appeals court that reassigned the matter to a new judge. Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped the appeal after taking office in 2014, and the city settled the case, leading to the new police directive.

From a high of around 655,000 in 2011, the NYPD cut its stop-and-frisks to about 46,000 last year.

Bratton noted in his message that the settlement required the NYPD to reform its supervision of cops performing stops and change its disciplinary methods for officers convicted of misconduct while performing stops.

Under a section titled "When May a Stop Be Conducted," the message recites the established rule that cops must have an "individualized, reasonable suspicion" that a person stopped has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. Officers must have more than "mere suspicion or a hunch," according to the directive.

" 'Furtive movements' or mere presence in a 'high crime area,' standing alone, are insufficient basis for a stop or a frisk," Bratton's message stated. Moreover, high-crime areas must not be defined too broadly -- like an entire precinct or a borough -- and generalized descriptions such as an "18- to 25-year-old black male" also can't be used to justify a stop, said the message. There must be something more specific to the description than age or race, the message stated.

An NYPD spokesman confirmed last night that the directive went out and was to be read at 10 police roll calls, beginning with the one scheduled for midnight Monday.

PBA president Patrick Lynch said in a statement, "Police officers are going to have to travel with an attorney just to interpret these new stop-and-frisk regulations."

Lynch also insisted that rank-and-file officers were being saddled with problems stemming from what he maintained was an illegal "quota system," something the NYPD said doesn't exist.

"The end result is making a difficult job more difficult and dangerous," Lynch said.