Stop and Frisk Policy to Come Under Greater Oversight, Ray Kelly Says
CITY HALL — Police Commissioner Ray Kelly outlined new oversight and training procedures for the NYPD’s controversial stop and frisk program, following months of outcry from local officials and civil rights advocates.
In a letter to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and testimony in front of the City Council, Kelly outlined a series of steps the department has taken “to increase public confidence in Police Department stop, question and frisk procedures."
From now on, the executive officer in each precinct will be responsible for auditing officers’ stop and frisk worksheets — a move Kelly said he hoped would help reduce the number of erroneous reports being filed by cops.
The department has also launched a new training program and videos for new officers. The course provides police with an additional level of instruction in when and how to conduct a lawful stop, he said.
“We realize the sensitivity involved in stops, which is why we place a great emphasis on it on officer training," Kelly told the Council during the budget hearing.
To further that end, the NYPD has also established an early warning system to identify officers who have received stop-related complaints from the public, to flag them for additional training on how to handle stop-and-frisks.
“We must preserve the trust and support of the communities we serve and conduct stops with courtesy and professionalism," he said.
The department has also republished an order that specifically prohibits racial profiling, Kelly said.
The measures come following growing criticism over the controversial policy, which allows police to stop suspicious-looking people on the street and search them for weapons.
Nearly 700,000 people — the vast majority black and Hispanic — were stopped last year by the program, which Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have hailed the program as key to the drop in the city's murder rate.
The murder rate is currently in track to beat 2009's record low, with just 132 murders so far this year — 36 fewer murders than in 2011.
But critics, who have said the program increases crime by breeding distrust between communities and cops, slammed the measures as nothing more than window dressing.
"The NYPD's stop-and-frisk program is fundamentally broken. The NYPD is out of control, and the culture and practices of the Department need a full-scale overhaul so that everyone's fundamental rights are respected and all communities can trust and respect the police," said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman, who called the response "nothing more than a desperate public relations attempt."
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said the move was "a step in the right direction" but far from enough.
"Today’s public relations gambit before the City Council by the NYPD does not honestly address a policing crisis which is dividing this city," he said, pointing to the fact that the NYPD is on track to stop more people this year than ever before.
"A reform plan that does nothing to reverse that trend is not real reform," he said.
Quinn also applauded the announced changes, but said in a statement that she felt they fell short.
“With these actions today, Commissioner Kelly and the NYPD are taking an important step forward however, more must be done to significantly reduce the number of stops and to bridge the divide between the NYPD and the communities they serve,” she said.
“I know that we can both keep crime at these historic lows and protect the civil rights of all new Yorkers," she said.