New York police plan changes to "stop and frisk"

Reuters News
Posted: May 18, 2012 7:40 PM
New York police plan changes to "stop and frisk"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Police Department announced changes on Thursday to its controversial crime-fighting tactic known as "stop and frisk," saying it would revise the way it trains officers and make clear to them that its policy prohibits racial profiling.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly outlined the changes in a letter to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a leading critic of the policy which, some say, unfairly targets black and Latino New Yorkers and alienates minority communities.

Quinn said the planned changes - which will include an early warning system to identify officers who have received public complaints and need more training - were an "important step forward" but added that more needed to be done.

Other changes include making precinct commanders responsible for monitoring the stop and frisk activities of officers under their watch and focusing training in the program on newer officers.

Commanders would then be held accountable at weekly meetings with NYPD management - one of the changes that several city council members and civil rights groups had requested.

The NYPD will also republish its order that prohibits racial profiling, a hot-button issue with critics of the program. The New York Civil Liberties Union recently released a study that found that in 2011, police performed more stop and frisk searches of young black men, than the total number of young black men living in New York.

In the face of criticism, the NYPD has strongly defended the tactic, arguing it has been crucial in taking guns off the streets and achieving a historic drop in crime rates. The police deny that race or quotas motivate stops and say they are stopping people considered suspicious.

A department spokesman on Thursday described the changes as largely "reinforcing policies that already exist" to make sure "the message is getting out to the field."

Kelly's announcement comes just a day after a U.S. judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit challenging the "stop and frisk" program.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan said that the lawsuit, filed in 2008 by four black men claiming they were improperly targeted by police because of their race, had established that their cases were emblematic of a city-wide problem.

(Reporting by Paul Thomasch. Editing by Bernadette Baum)