Former Police Chief Defends NYPD's 'Stop And Frisk' Program, Because It Has A Checklist
from the meanwhile,-certain-commanders-seem-to-be-encouraging-profiling dept
NYPD's "stop-and-frisk" program has never really been considered "constitutional" by anyone involved on either side of the law. In fact, certain elements of the stop-and-frisk program have already been ruled unconstitutional (making trespass stops outside residential buildings). But a case currently underway (Floyd v. City of New York) is hoping to prove that the NYPD's program violates the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Since 2002, the NYPD has performed these "street interrogations" over 4 million times. The end result? Nearly nine out of ten "suspects" have been completely innocent, and this is according to the NYPD's own reports. In addition, an overwhelming percentage of those stopped have been minorities. (Stops of whites hovers around 11% of the total.)
Not only are the NYPD's numbers damning in their own right, but NYPD officer testimony alleges that the department pressures officers with a quotas (20 summonses + 1 arrest per officer per month -- a.k.a. "20 and one"), something many states have recognized as creating perverse incentives and have outlawed accordingly. (Of course, this just leads to police departments utilizing other terms, like "productivity" or "benchmarks" or "performance goals.") Secret recordings even caught a commanding officer stating explicitly who patrol officers were supposed to target with the stop-and-frisk program: "I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21."
Recently retired police chief Joseph Esposito was called to testify in the Floyd v. City of New York case and Scott Greenfield noticed a rather interesting exchange between the chief and the presiding judge. After Esposito played to part of the crowd for a bit, mentioning the 40% reduction in crime and saluting his sergeants as the "best in the world," he answered a few questions directly related to the stop-and-frisk program.
Mr. Esposito also put much stock in the paperwork that officers must fill out after each street stop. That form includes numerous check boxes, each describing behavior that might lead to a stop, like “furtive movements” or “actions indicative of casing.”(Here's a copy of that form, usually referred to as a "250" form [UF-250] despite the fact that its form number is 344-151A.)
Mr. Esposito insisted that a supervisor could conclude that a stop was legal based on reviewing that form alone.
“If it’s filled out properly, it gives you reasonable suspicion. And if you have reasonable suspicion established, then you do not have racial profiling,” Mr. Esposito said. “It’s as simple as that.”
That's an interesting rationale. And not just the fact that Esposito believes "reasonable suspicion" can be entirely unyoked from "racial profiling." It's not as if narratives (and their corresponding paperwork) have never been altered to justify racially motivated actions.
But the worst part of this rationale is how little it takes for an officer to "establish" reasonable suspicion, and how the NYPD seems to prefer it that way.
A checklist. The holy grail of grocery clerks. Check off a few boxes and, bingo, reasonable suspicion is established. "It's as simple as that."As Greenfield says, this is what's presiding over New Yorker's constitutional rights -- a set of checkboxes so vague any person could be considered "reasonably suspicious."
[T]his... testimony... provides the deepest understanding of the failure to grasp what's at risk when cops roam the street under the leadership of a guy like Espo.
With his three stars, he was a "near-mythic figure" in the NYPD. Yet on the witness stand, he revealed himself to be an errand boy for grocery store clerks, who thought a checklist was real. "It's as simple as that." They so adore checklists. Check the right boxes and all is well with the world. There is no better proof than a checklist.
Fortunately, the judge was underwhelmed by Eposito's "star power" and his affection for reasonable-suspicion-via-checklist. Her response points out just how broadly written the form is and how easily it can be abused.
But Judge Scheindlin appeared skeptical that the paperwork proved anything.No. You really can't tell much by looking at the form. And like all paperwork, it's usually filled out after someone has already been shoved against a wall for walking in a high crime area. The department's own stats show that 9 out of 10 times, nothing illegal is happening. But yet the practice persists, failing to do anything more than assert control over the populace with systemic harassment sporting a gaudy 90% failure rate.
“Any officer can check off ‘high-crime area’ and ‘furtive movements,’ ” Judge Scheindlin said, referring to two check-box categories on the stop-and-frisk form. “You really don’t know much about the stop, looking at the form, do you?”
The number of stops dropped 20% last year (from its 2011 peak), suggesting a couple of things are happening. Either batting .100 isn't sitting well with some officers or the form itself is slowing down the process of establishing reasonable suspicion. Below is one of the forms the NYPD is reportedly* considering using to replace the inefficient, two-page "250" form.
*Actually not considering this completely made-up form at all.