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Local politicians and advocacy groups are trying to make the NYPD’s stop and frisk campaign into a racial controversy, but that’s not the case, according to a police officer assigned in a Brooklyn precinct.
Via email, the officer, whose identity can’t be disclosed out of concern for his job, tells us: “The whole UF250 mess, the media and politicians are looking at it the wrong way, it has nothing to do with race but all to do with numbers.” (UF 250 is the name of the form police fill out when they stop someone.)
The sharp increase in the number of stop and frisks over the past five years has been blamed on institutional racism–police unfairly targeting young black and hispanic men–but this officer tells us that it has more to do with two factors: the constant quota pressure coming down from above, and the misuse of stop and frisks as a measure of how well a cop is doing his job.
“Stop and question is a tool for us permitted by the supreme court to utilize, not a measure of performance,” the officer writes.
“With the quest for excellence they put out from One Police Plaza, they make it that if you did not address a particular condition with a summons, stop question or arrest, you didn’t do your job and you are ineffective,” the officer continues. “So the supervisors push the cops to stop and question people for no apparent reason to generate a number even if that number is irrelevant and will not help with any crimes being solved.”
He adds: “Most of the reasons for these stops are robberies which is ridiculous. As if that wasn’t it we were told that we must perform warrant checks on people we stop, so after stopping them for no reason, we run a warrant check that isn’t allowed. So now you have people with no criminal history being brought into the precinct for no reason and nonsense bicycle on the sidewalk warrants basically having their rights violated so some CO [commanding officer] can get promoted.”
The officer also tells us that rather than seeing a violation and addressing it, commanders order cops to target a certain type of misconduct.
“They constantly dictate to us what kind of summonses they want as if any other violation doesn’t matter,” the officer writes. “Last week in my command, they were calling sector cars to let them know that they must come back with 4 seat belt summonses. Sergeants are getting the pressure from the CO as well.”
He adds this intriguing statement: “One particular sergeant being told they cannot leave to go home until a particular number is met.”
The officer ended his most recent email with this: “If this turns into an argument that race is the reason for what is going on, the political machine will jump all over it so they can make themselves relevant and nothing will change. Understand that this about civil liberties and proper way of the police department doing its job.”