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NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman calls Stop-and-Frisk futile

Stephon Johnson | 11/21/2013, 11:07 a.m.
A recent report from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office suggests that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk ...
Stop and Frisk on trial: week three

A recent report from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office suggests that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices are ultimately futile.

The attorney general’s report analyzed almost 150,000 arrests that resulted from more than 2 million stops between 2009 and 2012 and concluded that almost half of those arrests (3 percent of all stops) led to guilty pleas or convictions at trial because the

arrestees were never prosecuted, their cases were dismissed or they received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. An adjournment in contemplation of dismissal is the dismissal of a charge if the defendant doesn’t commit another crime within six months or a year.

In addition to those findings, the report also highlighted that just 0.3 percent of stops led to jail sentences of more than 30 days, and 0.1 percent led to convictions for a violent crime. The report also noted the widespread consequences for arrestees and criminal justice institutions, including litigation costs incurred by the city during lawsuits accusing cops of constitutional violations and the harm done to people who were even arrested for misdemeanors regarding threats to loss of employment, housing, student loans and immigration status.

Schneiderman’s report, which relied on information obtained from the NYPD and the Office of Court Administration, is the latest shot fired in the war over stop-and-frisk and the Community Safety Act.

“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,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “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. 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.”

Joo-Hyun Kang, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, told the AmNews that Schneiderman’s report highlights a practice that doesn’t have a place in New York City.

“The attorney general’s report provides more proof that the Bloomberg administration’s abusive stop-and-frisk program is as ineffective as it is wrong,” said Kang in an emailed statement. “While violating the rights of law-abiding New Yorkers of color, it results in a miniscule percentage of arrests that are not dismissed. It’s time for the Bloomberg administration to stop delaying reforms to a policing program that doesn’t increase safety or serve the public interest.”

One man who isn’t happy about the attorney general’s report is NYPD Deputy Commissioner John J. McCarthy. In a statement sent to the AmNews, he called the report “clearly flawed,” which is why it “makes absolutely zero recommendations” on what the NYPD should do instead of stop-and-frisk.

“A police officer can stop, question and, if necessary, frisk a person if the officer believes the person has committed a crime, is committing a crime or is about to commit a crime,” states McCarthy. “That is settled constitutional law. Yet this analysis somehow just ignores situations where an officer’s action deters or prevents a crime from occurring in the first place. Those situations never result in an arrest, conviction or jail time because a crime is prevented.”

McCarthy said that the report failed to analyze or compare the outcomes of “stop, question and frisk” arrests to the outcomes of non “stop, question and frisk” cases. He said that a comparison would show that the results of these cases are in line with the type of outcomes generated by cases that didn’t involve the practice.

“By intentionally ignoring the question of whether a stop can be an effective tool in preventing a crime before it occurs, and failing to compare stop, question and frisk arrest outcomes against other arrests, this analysis falls short of being a meaningful review of stop, question and frisk as a law enforcement tool,” said McCarthy.

Earlier this month, a U.S. federal appeals court blocked a previous judge’s ruling against stop-and-frisk. In addition, the judge who made the ruling, Judge Shira Scheindlin, was removed from the case. Scheindlin had ruled the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy violated the Fourth and 14th Amendment rights of New Yorkers, rendering it unconstitutional.