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Originally Published: August 26, 2013

Good Government Group urges changes in use of the police tactic in light of practice being found unconstitutional

Urges mayoral candidates to make clear what specific policies would be put in place to ensure stop and frisk practice complies with judge’s ruling and federal monitor

With the issue of stop question and frisk dominating public discussion in recent weeks, Citizens Union today released its own position statement on the New York City Police Department’s tactic, calling the practice overused and urging that it be employed less frequently and more judiciously. It also issued a set of recommendations that complement those arising out of the federal class action lawsuit, Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. in which the NYPD’s current use of the practice was declared unconstitutional.

“New York City has prospered as a city over the past three decades in part because it has become a much safer city. New York must remain a safe city going forward which is why public safety is an important topic in this year’s race for mayor.” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “Sadly, the current overuse of stop, question and frisk has a corrosive and alienating effect on communities of color. In light of this month’s ruling by Judge Shira Scheindlin, candidates for mayor should present specific proposals on how they will change the practice of stop and frisk so that its practice is on the quality of stops rather than the quantity. With only 13.5 percent of all stops resulting in an arrest or issuance of a summons, too many law-abiding New Yorkers are being stopped without reasonable suspicion that they are or are about to commit a crime.”

The organization recommended improving the quality of stops by enhancing training for police officers; improving accountability systems and transparency within the NYPD and CCRB; changing laws related to marijuana possession; and ensuring furtive movements is not used to circumvent the legal requirement of reasonable suspicion in conducting stops.

As part of the Issue Brief released by Citizens Union, the good government organization compiled data showing that the number of stop, question and frisks has increased 448 percent since 2002 while major crimes declined 30 percent. While this pattern shows an overall positive correlation between stop, question and frisk and the reduction in crime, the data demonstrates an imbalance between the very large increase in the use of stop, question and frisk versus a more modest reduction in the crime rate.  Furthermore, in individual years there is no correlation between a drop in the crime rate and the number of stop, question and frisks. In 2007, for example, the number of stop, question and frisks declined 7 percent yet the crime rate went down 6 percent anyway. In 2011, stop and frisks surged 14 percent and the crime rate increased slightly.

Citizens Union does not believe this evidence, nor any other, definitively establishes the extent to which the overuse of stop, question and frisk is a significant factor in reducing crime or that a more judicious application of the tactic would cause a reversal of the current crime reduction trend. As a matter of policy, we oppose the overuse of stop, question and frisk in its current and aggressive form, which has now also been ruled unconstitutional. We do so because, while it is uncertain how many stop and frisks need to occur in order to reduce crime, we believe there comes a point when its overuse brings diminished results and can be counterproductive. We also wish to see it used more appropriately by focusing on the quality of the stops and not quantity because it imposes a significant burden and personal infringement on the rights and lives of individuals who are mostly people of color.

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