New York AG Report Slams NYPD Stop-and-Frisk

In a report issued late last week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman analyzed the impact of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk search policies on the state's criminal justice system -- and on the people victimized by them. The results are illuminating, but not pretty.

NYPD practices stop-and-frisk techniques (nyc.gov/nypd)
The report, A Report on Arrests Arising from the New York City Police Department's Stop-and-Frisk Practices, analyzed nearly 2.4 million stops between 2009 and 2012 resulting in nearly 150,000 arrests. Of those arrests, nearly half led to guilty pleas or convictions at trial, but that is only 0.3% of all those stopped and frisked. Only 0.1% of all stop-and-frisks resulted in a conviction or guilty plea for a violent offense.

"My office's analysis of the city's stop and frisk practices has broad implications for law enforcement, both in New York City and across the state. 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," said Schneiderman. "The vast amount of data we analyzed over four years should serve as a helpful guide to municipalities and law enforcement officials around the state, where stop and frisk practices are used to varying degrees. I want to thank the NYPD and the Office of Court Administration for providing the data for our report."

Schneiderman was being politic, but his report's numbers speak for themselves:

  • Close to half of all stop and frisk arrests resulted in no convictions because the arrestees were never prosecuted, their cases were dismissed, or they received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (a dismissal of a charge if the defendant does not commit another crime within six months or a year);
  • Just one in 16 stop and frisk arrests -- or 0.3 % of all stops -- led to a jail or prison sentence of more than 30 days;
  • Just one in 50 stop and frisk arrests -- or 0.1 % of all stops -- led to a conviction for a violent crime;
  • Just one in 50 stop and frisk arrests -- or 0.1 % of all stops -- led to a conviction for possession of a weapon; and
  • Almost one quarter of stop-and-frisk arrests (24.7 %) were dismissed before arraignment or resulted in a non-criminal charge.

The report also highlighted the collateral consequences that arrests have for all individuals subject to stop and frisk, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the case, and the burdens that various aspects of the stop and frisk program place on institutional actors within the criminal justice system, including:

  • Threats of a possible loss of employment, housing, student loans, and immigration status, even for those charged with misdemeanors, and added incentive to plead guilty; and
  • A sharp uptick in litigation costs for New York City for lawsuits alleging constitutional violations by the NYPD. In 2009, for the first time in 30 years, the NYPD had the largest legal settlements of any city agency.

The NYPD's stop-and-frisk policies have drawn intense political fire and judicial scrutiny. Now, they are being subjected to scrutiny of their real world consequences as well. This is an issue where incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio can signal that he's no Bloomberg.

New York, NY
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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but how effective is the policy in...

But how effective is the policy in intimidating the ill-connected?  How much more comfort did it provide for the well-connected?

Bloomberg evidently felt that intimidation of the ill-connected was good for NYC.  He spoke of a huge diminution in the intimidation of the well-connected by violence at the hands of the ill-connected.  Of NYC being a nicer place to live. But his argument was logically fallacious, and other explanations for the diminution are more credible.

"Intimidation of the well-connected by the ill-connected" is called "terrorism".  But the reverse, phenomenon, exemplified by stop-and-frisk, needs an equally scary name.  If we're really against terrorism, then *all* sides have to eschew intimidation.  And the well-connected side has to take the initiative, because only it is in a position to resort to means other than intimidation.

Is the purpose of laws against violence to *intimidate* people against committing violence?  It's a reasonable question to ask.  Personally, I feel we should think of such laws as pest control measures, rather than as means of behavior modification.  Evidently, however, that's now a minority view.  The American people like violence.  Subjugation is sexy, too.

The only conceivable purpose of our laws against drug possession is, in fact, intimidation. Those who exploit the Tragedy of the Commons that such laws enable are the only beneficiaries.  A crazy situation.

Your numbers are way off,

Your numbers are way off, just saying 1 in 16 = 6.25% and 1 in 50 = 2% – should be 1 in a 1000. Just saying.

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