Tagged: NYPD

Moving Toward a Solution: Monitoring the NYPD

On two separate occasions last month it was suggested that a court-appointed entity monitor the actions of the New York Police Department. In the first instance, the U.S. Justice Department suggested a monitor to address the racial implementation of stop and frisk procedures by select NYPD officers. The U.S. Justice Department announced that

it would support a decision by the judge to appoint a monitor to ensure compliance with any reform of police practices ordered by [the judge].

In the second instance, Civil Rights Groups  suggested a monitor of the NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program, an intelligence program designed to foil terrorist plots. Members of the Muslim community argue that the Surveillance Program hinders their constitutional right to worship.

The New York City Council responded to the call for an NYPD monitor by

approv[ing] some of the most sweeping plans in years to impose new oversight over the NYPD.

The two bills passed recently

expand the definition of racial profiling and… establish an inspector general with subpoena power to recommend changes to the NYPD’s policies and practices.

Those in favor of the NYPD monitor contend that the monitor will regulate police procedures to prevent, or at the very least diminish, racial and religious discrimination by the NYPD. Those against the NYPD monitor, most notably Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commission Ray Kelly, argue that a monitor would prevent police officers from doing their jobs effectively because it would cause hesitation among police officers in carrying out procedures vital to fighting crime.

Whether monitoring the NYPD is the right approach remains to be seen. However, the mere suggestion of an NYPD monitor indicates that society is moving toward a solution to a problem that has hindered the NYPD and society for decades.

Federal Judge Holds Police Trespass Stops Unconstitutional

BY Prof. Adele Bernhard

On January 8, 2013, Judge Shira Scheindlin held that the New York City Police Department routinely makes unconstitutional arrests of innocent people in public areas outside private apartment buildings in the Bronx. The NYCLU and co-counsel brought the federal lawsuit, Ligon v. City of New York, to put an end to the Police Department’s routine practice of arresting individuals upon failure to provide identification or what the police determine to be an adequate explanation for their presence in or outside but near to a “Clean Halls” building.

Operation “Clean Halls” has existed in some form since 1991. The purported purpose of the operation was to combat illegal activity in privately owned apartment buildings, particularly in high-crime areas. In some Bronx neighborhoods nearly every private apartment building is enrolled in the program.  The Clean Halls Program gave police authority to detain and question trespassers in the buildings, but police did not always follow the law. Relying in part on the testimony of the plaintiffs, taken at a hearing on the motion for summary judgment, in part on a report by Dr. Jeffrey Fagan, and in part upon numerous decisions by the Bronx District Attorney to decline to prosecute trespass charges arising from “Clean Halls” arrests, Judge Scheindlin held that the NYPD officers in the Bronx repeatedly stopped and questioned people on suspicion of trespass simply because they were observed exiting or entering and existing a Clean Halls building.

The decision makes for particularly interesting reading because Judge Schleindlin credits the plaintiffs’ testimony concerning their experiences being stopped, detained and arrested by police. She paints a devastating picture of how life feels in those areas of New York City where police power is most acutely experienced, and she criticized NYPD leadership for its failure to notice and combat the blatant abuse of power exercised by officers on the street.

To date, as noted above, the only piece of instruction that has been provided to officers on a systematic basis and that specifically targets the problem at issue in this case is a single bullet point in a single slide show during a single part of the [refresher training conducted in 2012]. This has been the NYPD’s most meaningful specific response to the problem that caused Charles Bradley’s unlawful stop and arrest, Abdullah Turner’s unlawful stop and arrest, the unlawful stop of J.G. that led Jaenean Ligon to fear for her son’ life, Roshea Johnson’s stop and interrogation in an unmarked NYPD van, all the other indignities that the other plaintiffs were obliged to suffer, and the hundreds of other unlawful stops, recorded and unrecorded, whose precise details this Court will never know,  Ligon v. City of New York.

Pace Criminal Justice Clinic Students represented J. G. in criminal court, along with many other individuals wrongly charged with trespass. Pace students filed motions to dismiss; organized community “teach-ins” to inform young people about their rights in police-citizen encounters; and testified before the New York City Council regarding trespass arrests. They brought J.G and his mother to the NYCLU as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which the NYCLU brought with the Bronx Defenders, Shearman & Sterling LLP, and LatinoJustice PRLDEFF, and participated in litigation strategy meetings. The New York Law Journal reported on the case on January 9, 2013.

Related Readings:

Stop and Frisk the Statistics

BY: Annmarie Stepancic

Between 2010 and 2012, the NYPD reported 1,624,419 stops in New York City. Of those stops, slightly over 6%, or 101,688 stops, resulted in an arrest. Another 6% resulted in a summons. So – what do these statistics mean? Well, on the one hand, these statistics seem to suggest an effort to reduce the crime rate, particularly in high crime areas. This is the interpretation we hear and read about in the news as we go about our day-to-day routines. On the other hand, these statistics suggest that the stop and frisk policy is ineffective. According to the NYPD data, stops do not yield any significant results approximately 88% of the time. We rarely, if ever, study this interpretation of the statistics. I would like to suggest that it is this interpretation – the 88% view – on which we as a society should focus our attention.

A few disclosures before I continue. I am in no way suggesting that the NYPD is wrong 88% of the time or that the entire stop and frisk policy should be eradicated. It is important to understand that not every stop and frisk will result in an arrest or summons, and I am not trying to suggest that it should. Moreover, in a post-9/11 world, it is imperative for our police officers – the men and women who vow to serve and protect us each day – to have the ability to stop and frisk any individual the officers reasonably suspect of criminal activity. However, I think and hope we can do better than futile stops 88% of the time.

I think the biggest reason stops are unsuccessful 88% of the time is because there is no clear standard for conducting a stop and frisk. In Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court established reasonable suspicion as the standard for a stop and frisk. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). According to the reasonable suspicion standard, a police officer may stop an individual that the police officer reasonably suspects has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. After an individual is stopped, the police officer may frisk the individual for police safety. But what exactly constitutes reasonable suspicion? The answer: your guess is as good as mine.

While recognizing the right against an unreasonable stop and frisk, the Warren Court failed to define the reasonable suspicion required, and subsequent congresses and legislatures have not done the job.  To date, scholars have helped by defining reasonable suspicion to include,  at a minimum, more than an individual’s hunch and to require specific facts that led the officer to reasonably believe that the individual has engaged will engage, or is engaging in criminal activity. These definitions, while helpful, still fall short in defining what exactly constitutes reasonable suspicion either for the courts or the police officer on the street. I understand that we live in a world of uncertainty, but that does not mean that we are to conduct our policing policies with the same uncertainty. The stakes – constitutional rights – are simply too high.

The constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of Americans are violated on an unprecedented scale because of illegal stops and frisks. A report published by the Center for Constitutional Rights in December 2012 found that

based on the information recorded on NYPD stop-and-frisk forms by police officers themselves, more than 95,000 stops lacked reasonable articulable suspicion and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Unconstitutional stops and frisks not only violate the constitutional rights of our fellow Americans, but also undercut the legitimacy of police officers. Illegal stops and frisks strain and, in many instances, destroy the very police-community relationships that could assist in the capture of the bad guys.

Related Readings:

Report Shows Stop and Frisk rights Violations Continue (By Center for Constitutional Rights, Dec. 2012).
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).
NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Practices: Unfair and Unjust (By Center for Constitutional Rights, 2012).
2011 NYPD Stop and Frisk Statistics (By Center for Constitutional Rights, 2011).
NYPD’s Stop, Question and Frisk Data (By NYPD, includes data for years 2003-2011).
Second Supplemental Report of Jeffrey Fagan, Ph.D.David Floyd v. City of New York, ___ F. Supp. 2d ___ (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2012) (No.: 08 Civ. 01034 (SAS)).