During a press conference to introduce the NYPD's new fleet of hybrid patrol cars, Commissioner Ray Kelly revealed a new addition to the department's controversial "stop and frisk" repertoire: Explaining. The new policy, which went into effect last week, requires any officer stopping a person in the street for a pat-down to divulge "the reason, or reasons, why it occurred." And in a pilot program being tested in Harlem, the South Bronx, and East New York, the subject of the search will also be given a 3-by-5-inch card explaining why the stop and frisk is so not racial profiling.

Kelly announced the policy in response to questions about why he was skipping yesterday's City Council Public Safety Committee hearing about the department's stop and frisk practice. Last week Kelly had asked that the hearing be postponed because of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights. When Council Speaker Quinn went ahead with the hearing anyway, Kelly decided to send an underling to read a letter defending the policy, and the assistant refused to take questions.

Committee chairman Peter Vallone told the Times yesterday, "The speaker and I are very disappointed, first of all, that the Police Department did not answer questions... It seems that some of their best policy improvements, like this one, come on the eve of a public safety hearing, which then slants coverage of the hearing toward their new policy." According to the NYPD's records, cops stopped, frisked and searched 531,159 New Yorkers last year, up from 468,732 in 2007 and 315,483. In 2008, 51 percent of people stopped by police were black, 32 percent were Latino, and 11 percent were white. And 88 percent were totally innocent and sent on their way.