NY Attorney General report questions efficacy of stop & frisk policy
A report released by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Thursday is raising questions on whether “stop-and-frisk” has been effective in reducing crime and violence in New York City.
Between 2009 and 2012, New York Police Department [NYPD] performed more than 2.4 million stop-and-frisk – a practice that has invited many costly lawsuits against the city.
“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.”
The report examined data provided by NYPD and the Office of Court Administration and found that only 6% – 150,000 out of the 2.4 million – of stop-and-frisks resulted in an arrest. Of those arrests, Schneiderman’s office found that only a minuscule number – about 3% – of the total stops resulted in a criminal conviction or violation.
Furthermore, most of the convictions were for “relatively minor offenses” such as graffiti, disorderly conduct, drugs, trespassing, and property crimes. Only 0.1% of all stops resulted in conviction for a violent crime, and only 0.1% of all stops led to a conviction of weapon possession charge. Only 0.3% of all stops resulted in a prison or jail sentence longer than 30 days.
“Stop and frisk led to few convictions for violence or gun-related crimes, with trespass, disorderly conduct, and other relatively minor crimes and violations constituting the majority of charges at conviction; and stop and frisk rarely led to the imposition of a jail or prison sentence,” according to the report. “Moreover, these findings suggest that stop and frisk imposes significant costs and burdens on prosecutors and the court system as a whole.”
These findings challenge assertions by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly that the stop-and-frisk practice is necessary to prevent violent crimes in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
“The fact that [stop-and-frisks] do not lead to arrests or summonses misses the point. When a police officer stops and makes inquiry of an individual about to burglarize a location the officer has stopped a burglary. When officers stop and make inquiry of young men about to strong-arm a bodega owner as he leaves his store late at night they’ve stopped a robbery or perhaps worse,” Kelly explained in August.
The report noted that the analysis doesn’t “address whether stop and frisk deters crimes.”
Critics of stop-and-frisk say the practice discriminates against black and Hispanic individuals – an assertion confirmed by the report. The report concluded that “blacks and Hispanics are stopped at a disproportionate rate” even after accounting for the crime rates and demographics of high-crime neighborhoods. The report also found that only 15% of the stops are made “on the basis that an individual fits the description of a crime suspect”, suggesting racial profiling.
The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a class action lawsuit in 2008 challenging the constitutionality of stop-and-frisk and alleging that the practice amounts to racial profiling against blacks and Hispanics in New York City.
In August, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and discriminated against black and Hispanic individuals and ordered a court-appointed monitor to oversee reforms to NYPD’s practices.
However, in late October, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay in Scheindlin’s ruling, thereby delaying reforms pending the city’s appeal in Floyd v. City of New York. The Court of Appeals also remanded the case to district court and reassigned the case to a new judge.
Overview of the report’s finding:
- Between 2009 and 2012, NYPD performed 2.4 million stop-and-frisks. Only 150,000 – of 6% of all stops – resulted in an arrest.
- Only 3% of the total stops resulted in a criminal conviction or violation
- Most of the convictions were for “relatively minor offenses”; 40% quality of life offenses – graffiti and disorderly conduct; drugs, trespassing, and property crimes made up 30%;
- 1.5% of all stops – or less than a quarter of all stop and frisk arrests – resulted in a jail or prison sentence; short sentences; only 0.3% of all stops resulted in 30+ days of imprisonment
- 0.1% of all stops – or 1 in 50 stop and frisk arrests resulted in a conviction for a violent crime
- 0.1% of all stops – or 1 in 50 stop and frisk arrests resulted in a conviction for possession of a weapon
- Nearly a quarter of stop and frisk arrests charges were dismissed before arraignment
- ag.ny.gov: A.G. Schneiderman Releases Report On Arrests Resulting From Stop And Frisk Practices And Their Impact On The Criminal Justice System
- ag.ny.gov: Report on arrests arising from the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices – Nov. 14, 2013 (PDF)
- nyc.gov: Statements Of Mayor Bloomberg And Commissioner Kelly On Federal Court Ruling – Aug. 12, 2013
- ccr.org: Landmark Decision: Judge Rules NYPD Stop and Frisk Practices Unconstitutional, Racially Discriminatory