Street-Stop Report Reveals Anxious NYPD

     MANHATTAN (CN) – New York City police may be avoiding “lawful and prudent” street stops to avoid “personal legal liability” after being hammered for racial profiling in a landmark civil rights case, a federal monitor found in his first annual report.
     The monitor also observed that the NYPD officers failed to document some of the stops they have made.
     Nearly two years ago, a federal judge called for a monitor to keep the NYPD’s Stop, Question and Frisk Program in check after finding that the department unconstitutionally targeted black and Latino New Yorkers.
     The decree called for police to wear body cameras, thoroughly document the reasons for each stop, and submit to a court-appointed monitor.
     After the city dropped its appeal, court monitor Peter Zimroth stepped into his position and released his first annual report on Thursday.
     Zimroth, a senior attorney at Arnold & Porter LLP, introduces his report with a brief letter noting that it “is still early in the remedial process, and there is much to do.”
     The Stop, Question, and Frisk program had been on the wane in New York long before Zimroth assumed his post, spiking in 2011 at 658,724 street stops before precipitously dropping every year since until hitting 46,235 last year, according to data compiled by the New York Civil Liberities Union.
     But Zimroth noted that “reported decline in [street-stop] numbers does not ‘fix’ the problem.”
     “The focus should not be on the number of stops per se, but rather on the lawfulness of those stops and whether these law enforcement encounters are conducted in accordance with the department’s principles of ‘courtesy, professionalism and respect,'” he wrote in a 90-page report.
     Zimroth added that “data being reported may not be entirely accurate because some officers are making stops without appropriately documenting them.”
     Twelve of the audits looking into three-day and five-day periods found 17 failures to document stops, and audits of seven other precincts identified “a number of instances” where it “appeared likely that a stop was conducted but there was no or improper documentation,” according to the report.
     The monitor also reported that “officers on the street may be declining to stop, question and frisk when it would be lawful and prudent to make the stop” for fear of “personal legal liability” or discipline.
     “We do not know the extent to which officers may be declining to make lawful, appropriate stops because of these uncertainties,” the report stated. “To the extent it is happening, though, it is not a healthy state of affairs for police officers or communities.”
     While all officers currently must document stops with body cameras, the monitor wants to amend the court order to contrast those wearing the recorders with a “control” group without them.
     “This design permits a clearer assessment of causes and effects,” the report stated.
     The Center for Constitutional Rights, the nonprofit group that led the charge for stop-and-frisk reform in Floyd v. City of New York, commented that the report reflected “some initial, important steps” toward the NYPD’s compliance with the court order.
     Still, “this is no ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment,” its spokeswoman Jen Nessel said in a statement.
     “There is a great deal of work to be done given the broad range of reforms identified by the court as necessary to rectify years of unconstitutional and discriminatory policing and ensure police accountability to the communities they serve,” she wrote.

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