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Excerpt: "New York should learn from Philadelphia, where the stop-and-frisk policy was the subject of a 2010 class-action suit for racial discrimination and violations of Fourth Amendment guarantees of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures."

New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program. (photo: Alamy)
New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program. (photo: Alamy)

How to End Stop-and-Frisk Abuses

By The New York Times | Editorial

25 May 12


ommissioner Raymond Kelly of the New York Police Department issued a weak statement last week on efforts to “increase public confidence” in the city’s abusive stop-and-frisk program, which ensnares hundreds of thousands of mainly minority New Yorkers every year. Mr. Kelly seems to believe that tinkering at the margins will cure the program’s constitutional flaws. It will not.

New York should learn from Philadelphia, where the stop-and-frisk policy was the subject of a 2010 class-action suit for racial discrimination and violations of Fourth Amendment guarantees of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. Like New York police officers, Philadelphia’s were accused of using race as the basis for stops. Philadelphia settled the suit, accepting a consent decree that explicitly defined and prohibited illegal stops and put in place a court-appointed monitor to oversee stop-and-frisk practices.

Mr. Kelly’s plan, laid out in a letter to the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, is unlikely to end the enormous annual number of street stops, from which only a tiny percentage results in a gun seizure or an arrest. It re-emphasizes an existing directive banning racial profiling and tells commanders to review the forms that officers fill out after each stop. But such reviews are worthless if the forms allow stops based on vague and meaningless reasons, like an individual’s “furtive movement.”

The implication in Mr. Kelly’s letter is that street-level officers are refusing to follow proper policy and are responsible for a growing number of illegal stops made without objective “reasonable suspicion,” as required by law.

But Judge Shira Scheindlin of Federal District Court demolished that argument last week in a ruling granting class-action status to a lawsuit filed against the department. She found the problem was the command structure itself and “the department’s policy of establishing performance standards and demanding increased levels of stops and frisks.” Stops increased from under 100,000 in 2002 to nearly 700,000 last year.

By pointing out the vague and unlawful criteria used to justify stops in New York, the court decision suggested a kind of road map to reform. In tens of thousands of cases, for example, officers reported “furtive movement.” They reported that other stops had taken place in “high crime areas,” when, in fact, some had not. And, in more than 10 percent of all stops, officers reported a “suspicious bulge” - suggesting a gun - in the clothing of people they stopped, but seized guns only 0.15 percent of the time. New York needs to stop these practices, which may have infected Philadelphia’s program.

The Philadelphia data showed stops had increased from about 102,000 in 2005 to more 253,000 in 2009, with blacks making up more than 72 percent of the people stopped, though they are about 44 percent of the population. The consent decree explicitly prohibits stops made solely on the basis of “furtive movement” or acting “suspiciously” or because the person was in a “high crime” or “high drug” area.

As part of the decree, the city set up an electronic database that will allow both internal and external parties to monitor progress in reform. Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia also created a process to allow citizens to lodge complaints against the police more easily. It is not clear how long it will take to change the culture of the Philadelphia Police Department. But city leaders were wise to stop fighting the legal challenge and to begin crucial reforms. New York should follow that example. your social media marketing partner


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+4 # John Locke 2012-05-25 12:04
New York will not learn, to learn from the past requires intelligence and with the police around 104 average IQ that won't happen...they lack the essential to do more then follow a leader, who is equally challenged...
0 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-25 12:36
104 is by definition above average.
-2 # James Marcus 2012-05-25 12:16
The response of Moronic Psychopaths will be to ...stop and search 'White Christians', as well. So 'Prejudice' won't be a justified objection. Just Great......
It is Our Congress (& President) , that is responsible. The Cops are just (deliberately Dumb) 'Obedient Attack-Dogs'
+4 # badbenski 2012-05-25 16:11
I am still disappointed by the fact that a major municipality can, by policy, violate its citizen's protection against unreasonable search & seizure using such thin pretexts. What are the local judges thinking when such cases come before them? The Bill Of Rights has, of late, become applicable only circumstantiall y. From the absurdity of the TSA to highway checkpoints, we find that what was supposedly unalienable has accrued to us by virtue of governmental premission. Rights have become priviledges granted by governmental authority. How backward is that?
+1 # John Locke 2012-05-26 09:20
No form of Government works long term, the reason is that the Human race is too corruptable and when any form of government becomes corrupted it must fall, always has and always will!
We are no exception and because of that we are in the last days of the American Empire!

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