Stop-and-frisk legislation is still the hot topic in NYC politics, leading up to and extending beyond the election of Bill de Blasio for mayor. In a recent post, TCF blogger Jill Silos-Rooney explored the legal battles of stop-and-frisk enacted by the NYPD, which I will expand on here.
Deep flaws in both the implementation and effectiveness of stop-and-frisk tactics were found by two different reports released on November 14th, one by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the other by the New York State Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
De Blasio has the ability to radically shift law enforcement policy, even if, “Among the people, there’s no groundswell against stop-and-frisk — certainly not in minority communities,” as Police Chief Raymond Kelly remarked. However, given de Blasio’s vows to change these practices, it seems pertinent to also explore how failed NYPD tactics don’t end at stop-and-frisk.
Thinking Critically About Stop-and-Frisk
The 2.4 million stops between 2009 and 2012 produced only 150,000 arrests, reported the OAG. Under 3 percent of these stops resulted in guilty pleas or convictions at trials, and just 0.1 percent led to convictions for violent crimes.
On top of this data, there were other legal fallouts from the legislation. The OAG report specifically documented how even a misdemeanor charge can result in the loss of housing, access to employment, the ability to receive student loans and the loss of immigration status.
In 2009, the NYPD reported the largest legal settlements from alleged civil rights abuses of any city agency.
On this, Attorney General Schneiderman publicly commented:
“It’s our hope that this report — the first of its kind — will advance the discussion about how to fight crime without overburdening our institutions or violating equal justice under the law.”
How Communities Can Move Forward
Continued targeting of Muslim communities, increased criminalization of non-violent offenses, even among children, and other forms of racial bias were among other key aspects of NYPD’s enforcement policies criticized by the NYCLU in addition to stop-and-frisk.
Furthermore, aggressive NYPD tactics encourage distrust of the police, particularly from civil liberties groups, contrary to Chief Kelly’s assurances these tactics do not. “Respondents with more experiences with the NYPD – even those who reported interactions with the police that weren’t necessarily negative – said they were less likely to help with a police investigation or report a crime,” reported the NYCLU.
Not surprisingly, negative sentiment toward the NYPD was found to be strongest among black respondents.
Given the distrust of the NYPD, the NYCLU proposed a series of reform measures.
The first of these measures is to enforce broader oversight of NYPD tactics and immediate reform of stop-and-frisk. The measures also extend to other areas, including school police officer reform, increased outside transparency of policies and an intervention with pervasive police bias.
De Blasio’s Role in Reform
Throughout his campaign, de Blasio was a vocal supporter of NYPD reform, championing “new leadership at the NYPD, an inspector general, and a strong racial profiling bill.” But can de Blasio’s stump speech during his campaign lead to significant reform today?
It’s uncertain at this point exactly how the laws will change, but mayor-elect de Blasio has held on to his campaign calls. “We are going to get on with a very, not only progressive, but aggressive agenda,” he said during a recent National Action Network meeting in Harlem.
As de Blasio worked behind the scenes, he was supported by numerous outside organizations: 125 of them. These civil rights groups called on the Department of Justice to investigate claims of surveillance programs on mosques, according to Slate. Another group, Communities United for Police Reform, has raised vocal opposition to racially-biased policies in place by the NYPD.
Though January 1st will be the real test of de Blasio’s commitment to NYPD reform, the diverse swath of voters who elected him to office seem poised to hold him accountable, not only to stop-and-frisk reform, but also to broader legislation designed to educate everyone on the social and economic costs of pervasive police bias.