NYPD street stops have plummeted more than 98% — but stop-and-frisk incidents, and the use of force on blacks and Latinos, still occurs too frequently, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The watchdog group praises the nation’s largest police for reducing street stops from a high of 685,000 in 2011 to less than 12,000 in 2017. But it noted that based on a report by a federal monitor, not all stops are documented, as required. And the city’s adherence to broken-windows policing often leads to stops that don’t result in an arrest or summons, eroding the public’s trust.
As in the past, blacks and Latinos are involved in a majority of street stops, including a frisk or the use of force.
“To be black or Hispanic in New York City is to be targeted by the NYPD,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.”And that is especially true for young black and Latino men and boys.”
The NYPD dodged questions about the racial breakdown of those stopped, but noted the continued plunge in stops, along with a focus on known criminals, has also reduced the number of overall arrests and summonses.
The monitor, Peter Zimroth, was appointed to oversee changes to the stop-and-frisk policy after a judge in 2013 ruled police, by misusing the tactic, violated the constitutional rights of blacks and Latinos.
An NYCLU report released Wednesday, “Stop and Frisk in the de Blasio Era,” looked at stops from 2014 through 2017, the mayor’s first term, and found there were 92,383 reported stops.– less than half the 191,000 in 2013, the last year of the Bloomberg administration.
But the NYCLU said at closer inspection, the report revealed the same troubling patterns persisted: Blacks and Latinos were involved in 81% of the stops, and frisks \— allowed if an officer fears someone is carrying a weapon — were conducted in 66% of the stops, though weapons were found in just 7% of those incidents.
“A frisk is a completely invasive activity,” said NYCLU Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “It’s the sort of thing that transforms a police-civilian encounter into something physical and is a source of great concern on our part.”
The report also said police used force — including putting hands on a suspect, drawing a firearm or using handcuffs — in 28% of the stops. Force was used on whites 22% of the time, blacks 28% and Latinos 30%.
A police source noted officers in the 106th Precinct recorded the most stops — 5,184 — during the four years analyzed. The precinct’s neighborhoods include predominantly white Howard Beach, the source said.
In another more diverse area covered by the precinct, South Ozone Park, Octaviano Medrano, 19, recalled that a cop once called him over to the police cruiser after school let out to ask why he wasn’t in class.
“I think he was just bored, and wanted something to do,” Medrano said of the years-ago incident.
Still, Medrano believes most officers do things the right way. “It’s just a select few who take advantage,” he said. “I want to be safe but at the same time a frisk is a violation.”
Deputy Commissioner Phil Walzak, the NYPD’s top spokesman, said the decline in stops “reflects the deliberate shift in NYPD strategic focus over the past several years to precise, surgical targeting of crime and criminals.”
The end result, he said, is a safe city “with dramatically fewer confrontational encounters between police and the people we serve.”