The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association swiftly condemned an order issued Nov. 20 by a Federal Judge concerning stop-and-frisk data that it said would further discourage “proactive policing in New York City.”
The directive from U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres requires the NYPD, in consultation with an outside monitor, to submit for approval a plan to implement “a program for systematically receiving, assessing, and acting on information regarding adverse findings on the conduct of police officers involving illegal stops or illegal trespass enforcements.”
The outside monitor, former city Corporation Counsel Peter Zimroth, was appointed as part of the 2013 decision issued by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin finding that the NYPD’s execution of its stop-and-frisk program was frequently in violation of the U.S. Constitution and a 1968 Supreme Court ruling setting the ground rules under which such stops can be conducted.
Judge Torres subsequently assumed jurisdiction over the implementation of that ruling from Judge Scheindlin, who has since retired.
She noted that in May, Mr. Zimroth had issued a 304-page report covering police-community relations and containing 14 recommendations for reform to ensure that stops were conducted only in cases where officers had reasonable suspicion that those they detained had recently committed crimes or were about to do so.
Among the proposals, Judge Torres wrote, was that she order the NYPD to produce data on illegal stops. She noted that the NYPD Inspector General’s Office had stated that “proper collection and analysis of police litigation data has the potential to reduce police misconduct, improve public safety, control costs, identify training opportunities, strengthen public confidence, and advance law-enforcement oversight.”
What She Wants Included
Based on those arguments, Judge Torres said, she was requiring that the plan to provide extensive information on the program include “(a) declinations of prosecutions by the District Attorneys in New York City; (b) suppression decisions by courts precluding evidence as a result of unlawful stops and searches; (c) court findings of incredible testimony by police officers; (d) denials of indemnification and/or representation of police officers by the New York City Law Department; and (e) judgments and settlements against police officers in civil cases where, in the opinion of the New York City Law Department, there exists evidence of police malfeasance.”
The PBA, which in July submitted comments regarding the monitor’s recommendations in that area, was not pleased by the Judge’s order. Union President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement, “Once again, the Court is leveraging its narrow authority over street stops and trespass enforcement to impose sweeping changes on the NYPD’s operations and daily management. This most recent order is completely unnecessary, because the Court and other police oversight entities have long since made their message to police officers clear: they want an end to proactive policing in New York City.”
Ironically, the PBA had been quietly critical of the NYPD’s overuse of stop-and-frisk during the period that generated the lawsuit that led to Judge Scheindlin’s decision, because in some high-crime precincts police commanders were pressuring its members to reach what were called stop-and-frisk goals but which the union described as quotas.
Kelly Memo Stemmed Tide
Stop-and-frisks, which had totaled 97,000 in 2002, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s first year in office, by 2011 reached a high of 685,000. They were on track to shatter that record during the first few months of 2012, but an order early that spring from then-Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, which PBA officials confirmed had been issued, advised officers to no longer treat the stops as goals and focus on quality stops rather than quantity. That eased the pressure on officers, leading them to be more selective about whom they stopped.
Even as Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly protested that the suit which was then making its way toward trial could produce a decision that would sharply decrease safety in the city, stops plummeted during their last 21 months in office, and the crime rate also continued to decline.
Both trends have held steady during Mayor de Blasio’s tenure, and last year the NYPD reported that just 11,000 stops were conducted, although some critics claim that many others were not reported.