Tag Archives: stop and frisk

Stop & Frisk Trial in Queens

Protesters of the controversial and unconstitutional NYPD practice of Stop and Frisk are currently on trial in Queens. Four people arrested protesting Stop & Frisk in Jamaica Queens in November 2011, are currently on trial: Carl Dix, teacher Jamel Mims, Morgan Rhodewalt and Bob Parsons. All four have been charged with Obstruction of Government Administration charges, which could carry one year in jail for each defendant, for chanting protests on the steps of the 103rd precinct, which at the time had been barricaded by police.

The 103rd precinct is one of the ten most heavily affected neighborhoods under Stop & Frisk. It is also the precinct where Sean Bell was killed by police in 2006.
The New York City Council is currently trying to amend Stop & Frisk, and other NYPD practices, through the Community Safety Act. The Community Safety Act would create an NYPD Inspector General, whose responsibilities would include oversight of the police force, as well as prohibiting discriminatory profiling. The Inspector General would be able to oversee NYPD practices like Stop and Frisk; as well as the surveillance of Muslim communities. The IG would also be responsible to make sure the NYPD follows its own Handschu guidelines, which prohibit political policing.
The Community Safety Act would also require that the name and rank of the officer(s) performing the stop-and-frisk be given to the citizen.
A recent AP story about a 19-year old paid informant demonstrates the predatory nature of NYPD practices, with the informant using a “create and capture” strategy of “creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD.” The NYPD has admitted that the spying on Muslim communities did not lead to any charges or investigations.
A recent op-ed in the NY Daily News by NYC Councilpersons Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams explained the need for an IG: “At the FBI and CIA, and in cities around the country, inspectors general have helped law enforcement agencies improve unwise policies. Other times, IG investigations have shown that an agency under fire was actually in the right.”

A petition urging Queens District Attorney, Richard Brown, to drop all charges against all defendants is currently circulating. The petition has been endorsed by City Councilperson Jumaane Williams; as well as the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham.

The trial has been delayed by Hurricane Sandy, and is set to resume on November 5th.

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Stop and Frisk Numbers Drop

The occurrence of the controversial NYPD practice of Stop and Frisk declined during the second quarter of 2012, according to department-provided statistics. The NYPD claims that in April, May and June of this year there were 133,934 Stop and Frisks in the city, a drop of 34% from the first quarter of the year; and a drop of about 25% from the second quarter of 2011.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly denied that public pressure and opposition to the practice by organizations like the NYCLU and the NAACP played a part in the declining numbers. Instead, Kelly claimed that sensitivity training, as well as having fewer rookie officers in high-crime areas during the second quarter, were the reasons behind the decline.
The New York Times, citing “police supervisors,” reported that one reason for the decline was that “police commanders have grown wary of pushing for such stops at daily roll calls.”

The NYCLU pointed out that the data (which was provided to the New York Post by the NYPD) did not include data about the number of innocent people stopped. Previous statistics have shown consistently that almost 90% of those stopped by the NYPD are innocent.

The New York Post originally broke the story, claiming that, “On the face of it, the statistics seem to provide the NYPD with evidence that – at least in this one period – more stop-and-frisks resulted in fewer crimes and more gun seizures.”

John Surico at the Village Voice countered the Post’s claims about the statistics, writing that “you cannot make a wholehearted declaration of something based on a correlation.”

685,724 Stop and Frisks were performed by the NYPD in 2011, the highest year to date. Almost 90% of those stopped are black or Hispanic, with 9 out of 10 people stopped being totally innocent.

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CompStat and Frisks

New York certainly looks good. As reported last week, the Mayor’s office glorified an FBI report which placed New York as the safest big city in the United States. Anyone who grew up watching New Jack City or The Warriors or Seven can remember New York to be the dirtiest, cruelest, most dangerous city imaginable. (My father recalls our family trip from the upstate NY sticks to Manhattan, where my siblings and I rolled up all the windows of the car on a hot August day to avoid pedestrians.)

The police state created by the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, and the public relations promoting the city, have sought to curb this unflattering reputation. The cost of such security is no glib question. Ben Franklin noted that those willing to sacrifice freedoms for security deserved neither. And while freedoms in the U.S. have generally been constricting – particularly in light of the PATRIOT and Military Commissions Acts – New York City has constricted with its citizens’ sacrifice.

Stephen Colbert once called Washington D.C. the marshmallow city, with a graham cracker crust of corruption. As New York has become more “gentrified” (a fancy word for ethnic cleansing?) Manhattan has marshmallowed. (See the recent NYTimes article, “No longer Majority Black, Harlem Is In Transition.”)

In 2008 the NPYD made 530,000 stop-and-frisks. (When an officer stops a civilian and frisks them for contraband.) A record. And 80% of them performed on Blacks or Latinos.

In 2009 the stop-and-frisks hit 575,000. A recent New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) lawsuit seeks to force the NYPD to purge its records of over 3 million people “whose personal information is being kept in the NYPD database,” contrary to state law. “The names and addresses of those stopped,” the report continues, ” “have been entered into the department’s database, regardless of whether the person had done anything wrong.”

Even The Daily News – after a laudatory and defensive opening paragraph – admits CompStat to be a “valuable crime management tool [which] has been subject to misuse.”

The NYPD database known as CompStat (Computer Statistics), is a particular organizational system that keeps track of the city’s crime almost as it happens, analyzes the data, and seeks solutions. A map, illustrating where crimes occurred – and with information about them – allows the Department to see where most of the crimes are occurring, and plan around it.

R. valeria Treves reported in Z Magazine in 2004 that, “A central aspect of CompStat is regular meetings … where precinct commanders are grilled by the NYPD top brass,” those without their boots on the ground, to use the Presidentially popular phrase. “The rhetoric and procedures center,” she continued, “center on the idea of ‘accountability’ and precinct commanders are rewarded or punished, depending on their performance,” noting how similar this is to contemporary practices in the U.S. educational system, of rewards and punishment; of success and failure measured by numbers.

An ongoing Village Voice series (“The NYPD Tapes”) details corruption in the NYPD, as gathered from recordings made my whistle blowing police. The tapes feature “NYPD superior officers encouraging street cops to manipulate crime statistics by downgrading crimes and intimidating crime victims.”

As the pressure for better numbers increases from the top on down, the ability for officers in the field to use discretion decreases. Quotas are quotas, and you’ve got to meet them. And not all policies are public, which is a tight spot for officers who will need to defend their actions to both a stated and unstated policy. Perhaps in 2010 we’ll hit 600,000 stop-and-frisks in New York. And it won’t be the stopper or the frisker who owns the responsibly.

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