New York

Ray Kelly, Police Commissioner, Issues New Command Guide on Stop and Frisk [Update]


Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has issued a new “command level instructor’s guide” to performing stop and frisks, in his latest move to blunt criticism of the strategy.

The news here is that this new training has been given to police officers in every command, rather than only academy cadets, as it was in the past, according to police sources. There is also supplementary training on stop and frisk for police at Rodman’s Neck, the NYPD’s shooting range, the sources say.

“In every street encounter, it is imperative that uniformed members of the service respect the Constitutional rights of the public,” according to a copy of the guide obtained by the Voice. Police “must ensure their contact with the subject is not based on personal prejudice or bias, such as the subject’s race or hair length.”

The guide, which has an accompanying video, goes through the complex “levels of suspicion” which justifies a stop, question and frisk, noting police action cannot be based on a “whim” or a “hunch.” “Suspect free to walk away [during questioning] but flight may raise level of suspicion,” the guide states.

The guide includes one of the more controversial justification for a stop–“furtive behavior”–which is cited in many of the stops recorded by police.

The document says police can frisk for a gun, if they have a specific reason, such as a bulge in clothing, but they can’t frisk for evidence–a nod to the arrests for small amounts of marijuana that often result from stops.

This year, with a mayoral election coming in 2013, the stop and frisk controversy has become a political football. Mayor Bloomberg and Kelly have gone to great lengths to defend the practice, while also introducing policy changes in an attempt to deal with the complaints.

Meanwhile, the city is still fighting a class action lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights over the practice. In that case, federal judge Shira Scheindlin recently hamstrung the city by ruling the city could not use one of its core arguments in its defense–that stop and frisk reduces crime. Scheindlin previously noted that the small percentage of gun seizures in stops is “powerful evidence of a widespread pattern of unlawful stops.”

Update: Robert Gangi, Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), sent out this comment on the new guide:

“We are pleased the Mayor and Police Commissioner are responding to political pressure and are taking some steps to address the widespread criticism of stop and frisk. However, serious problems remain with the Commissioner’s recently released guide on stop and frisk: “furtive movements” – a category that covers a lot of sins – is still a justification for making a stop; and the underlying presumption of the directive is that the problem lies in a lack of training while the truth is that the policy driving so many stop and frisks is the quota system. Until the NYPD drops the quota system as the main means of evaluating police performance, the kind of harassment of New Yorkers represented by the stop and frisk tactic will continue.”


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