In an apparent response to the lawsuit currently being tried in federal court on the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk, the department released a memo earlier this month ordering officers to more thoroughly document stops.
Chief of Patrol James Hall released the directive on March 5, one day after the plaintiffs submitted their requests for relief in the case—one of the requests was that the NYPD better detail the reasons for making the stops. "It's brinksmanship, pure and simple," the plaintiffs' lead counsel, Darius Charney, told reporters of the NYPD's decision to change policy on the eve of the trial. "I don't think it changes much of anything as far as this case goes." Charney's co-counsel, Jonathan Moore, added, "It's also an admission that what they were doing was wrong all these years."
Notably, City attorney Heidi Grossman derided the plaintiffs' request for better documentation of stop and frisks during her opening statement:
Plaintiffs' view that it is necessary to include a narrative on the UF 250...blatantly disregards that NYPD officers take the job to help people, not to be writers and that NYPD officers hail from 40 to 50 different countries, may not speak or write English as their first language.
The memo, which you can read below, orders officers to specifically note in their log books the detail of the stop, including the suspected crime, the explanation of their suspicion, and whether or not the suspect was frisked. The form used to catalogue individual stops, UF250, has also been amended so that police must elaborate on the suspicion they used to stop the person, rather than just check a box.
If the person's movements were furtive, the type of movement must be recorded. If a suspicious bulge was present, the bulge must be described. The memo also requires that officers attach the log entry that describes the stop with the UF250 when it's submitted to superiors for review. "Most cops will tell you that you can't tell if there was reasonable suspicion from just looking at the 250 alone," Moore said. A 2008 memo advised officers to carry out many of the same directives issued in this month's order, but they were described as "guidelines," and therefore not mandatory.
Chief Hall's memo was first made known to the plaintiffs around 9:45 last night, when attorneys for the City attempted to submit it as evidence for today's testimony. Charney, who is a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, objected to the City's move, noting that it was submitted a mere 12 hours before the sixth day of the trial was scheduled to begin.
City attorney Grossman argued that because the memo affected all police officers, that it should be admitted as evidence with regard to the an officer who stopped 13-year-old Devin Almonor in the Bronx in 2010: "There was a change of policy, your honor."
Judge Shira Scheindlin disagreed, but said she would allow it to be entered into evidence when Chief Hall, a witness, is called to testify. "I don't want to see it, because if I see it, I'll know what it is," Judge Scheindlin said.
You can read more of our coverage of Wednesday's testimony here.