Of 600 street stops documented over the course of three months in 2015, nearly a third were unconstitutional, as their report forms did not articulate reasonable suspicion for the stop or frisk. This practice, which was ruled unconstitutional in 2013, persists because officers are not being properly taught about reforms, according to a report filed this morning by attorney Peter Zimroth, the federal monitor tasked with ensuring that the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisks is compliant with Judge Shira Scheindlin's 2013 ruling.
According to Zimroth's report, which is the second of its kind since he was appointed to this position, 28 percent of stop reports filed between July 1st and September 30th in 2015 did not give an adequate reason for the stop, and 27 percent of the forms reporting a frisk failed to articulate reasonable suspicion. In almost every one of these cases, the officer's supervisor signed off on the report and said there was indeed sufficient basis for the stop and/or frisk.
"Many police officers, including supervisors, are not well informed as yet about the changes underway or the reasons for them and, therefore, have yet to internalize them," Zimroth wrote in his report. "Many appear not to understand what is expected of them."
In 2015, police made 24,000 street stops, compared with 45,787 in 2014 and 685,724 in 2011. But as Zimroth makes clear, a reduction in numbers is not good enough.
"The focus should not be on the number of stops per se, but rather on the lawfulness of the stops and whether the encounters are conducted in accordance with the Department’s principles of 'courtesy, professionalism and respect,'" he wrote.
Additionally, though many officers say they now feel less pressure to meet quotas—referred to in this report as "numbers"—of stops, several still say that they are still evaluated in part based on how many stops they make, the monitor learned from a series of focus groups.
The 94-page report further notes that the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent city agency that assesses claims of police misconduct, has not been investigating allegations of racial profiling when it receives such complaints—nor has the NYPD:
The CCRB does not believe that profiling complaints are within its authority to investigate complaints of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy or offensive language (FADO), and so does not investigate them. If a complainant alleges that an improper stop was made and that the officer made the stop because of the complainant’s race, the CCRB will investigate whether there was an appropriate basis for the stop, but will not separately investigate the racial profiling allegation.
Zimroth notes that he has met with the CCRB chair, and the board will now notify the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau whenever someone reports that they were profiled.
The federal monitor won't make an official determination as to whether the NYPD is violating the court's order on street stops until later next year. But this report shows serious areas for improvement within the NYPD, particularly when it comes to effectively communicating new policies to recruits and longtime officers alike.
"This is the second report where the court monitor is raising serious concerns about stop-and-frisks going unrecorded and being improperly documented," VOCAL-NY Co-Executive Director Alyssa Aguilera said in a statement on behalf of Communities United for Police Reform. "This report reinforces the notion that declines in the overall number of reported stops do not equate to reform. Black and Latino New Yorkers remain the highly disproportionate target of stops, with the vast majority of stops still not resulting in summons or arrest. Real reform requires an end to unconstitutional stops, systemic change at the NYPD that prioritizes accountability, and providing impacted communities with a meaningful role in reforms that can end stop-and-frisk abuses."
Mayor de Blasio said earlier today that while he hadn't yet read the report, "we understand that we're in a transition," and "the NYPD is working very closely with the federal monitor to figure out how to do things better going forward." The NYPD did not respond to request for comment.