New York Daily News

September 19, 2013


 


Study finds stop-and-frisk leads to mistrust of cops, unwillingness to cooperate with police

The landmark study by the Vera Institute of Justice found that stop-and-frisk policing erodes trust in police, so much that many young adults won't go to cops to report violent crimes. The study surveyed 500 young men and women from 'highly patrolled neighborhoods' who had been stopped.

BY ERIN DURKIN
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

A landmark study has found that stop-and-frisk policing leads to so much mistrust of cops, many young adults won’t go to cops to report violent crimes — even when they are the ones victimized.

The study, by the Vera Institute of Justice, found a stunning correlation between those who have been stopped and frisked, and an unwillingness to cooperate with the police.

For every additional time someone was stopped, that person was 8% less likely to report a violent crime, the researchers found.

“Our main finding is pretty plain and simple: Stop-and-frisk is compromising the trust needed for public safety,” lead researcher Jennifer Fratello said.

The Vera Institute, a nonpartisan research organization dedicated to improving “the systems people rely on for justice and safety,” will release the findings Thursday. The Daily News got an advance copy.

The study comes amid a raging debate over the use of the controversial police tactic.

A federal judge ruled stop-and-frisk unconstitutional in the way it is used and ordered the appointment of a monitor and other reforms — a ruling Mayor Bloomberg has said is dangerous and could cost lives.

And the City Council enacted two laws to rein in the practice by creating an inspector general and expanding the right to sue over racial profiling.

The issue also has been prominent in the mayoral race. Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee, vows a complete overhaul, while Republican Joe Lhota would stay closer to the current policy.

The Vera study surveyed 500 men and women ages 18 to 25 in five “highly patrolled neighborhoods” — Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York in Brooklyn; Jamaica, Queens; East Harlem, and the South Bronx — who said they had been stopped at least once by cops.

Of those surveyed, 46% said cops had used physical force on them, and 29% said they were never given a reason for why they were stopped.

Yet most of those stopped had done nothing wrong.

Of those surveyed, 85% said they were not involved in any illegal activity and were let go — a finding that matches NYPD stats that found 89% of people subjected to stop-and-frisks last year were innocent of any wrongdoing.

The researchers said the experience of being stopped affects the willingness of young adults to cooperate with the police.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Of the 500 people interviewed, most of whom were black or Latino, 76% said they would not go to the police to report someone they knew had committed a crime. And 59% said they wouldn’t go to cops even if they were the victim of a violent crime.

Nearly 9 in 10, 88%, said residents in their neighborhood don’t trust the police.

The study also found a stunning percentage of young adults who were stopped again and again.

Of those surveyed, 80% said they had been stopped more than once in their lives, and 44% said they had been stopped at least nine times.

Some of the young adults said they had been stopped 20 or more times.

The researchers did more in-depth interviews with 42 of the young adults to ask the circumstances under which the stops occurred.

“Nearly all said they were engaged in routine activities such as walking home from school, crossing the street, standing in front of a store or hanging out in the park,” the study found.

“They were taken by surprise because they felt that they were doing nothing wrong when the officers stopped them. Only four of the 42 young people interviewed said ... they had committed a violation.”

NYPD stats show that the number of stop-and-frisks peaked in 2011 and has tapered off since.

Crime has remained low — and Bloomberg administration officials say that’s because the tactic worked, while critics say it shows there’s no connection between stops and crime rates.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment on the Vera study, but Fratello said, “We met with them and we had a productive conversation and they seemed interested.”

The researchers said they meant the study to be the start of a constructive dialogue.

“New York City, thanks in no small measure to the New York Police Department, is after two decades of crime reduction the safest big city in America,” former Vera Institute Director Michael Jacobson, who oversaw the study, wrote in the report. “It is in everyone’s — communities as well as the police that work in those communities — interest for that trend to continue and for people to feel they are treated fairly and respectfully by their police force.”

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association had no official comment, but a union source said the study confirms what the PBA has been saying for years.

Although the union supports the use of stop-and-frisk, it claims that commanders have instituted quotas on how many times it is applied, leading to abuses.

The authors of the Vera study said stop-and-frisk can be a useful tactic — but that police officials should keep unintended consequences for police-community relations in mind when deciding how much and where to use it.

“You need to weigh the public safety benefits against the costs that we demonstrated,” Fratello said.

Told of the study, City Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), a prime mover behind the legislation to rein in stop-and-frisk, said he was not surprised.

He recalled a recent shooting in his Council district, at a backyard get-together. “No one knew the color of the clothes the perpetrators wore, no one knew what direction they ran,” he said.

“We have large swaths of people who won’t cooperate. It’s very tough in my position to convince some people that the police are community partners.

“I do believe it is my job to continue doing that, and I view them as community partners. The way they were doing stop-and-frisk, the profiling, it doesn’t help.”

edurkin@nydailynews.com