By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge in Manhattan on Monday authorized a court-appointed monitor for New York City's police department to oversee an improved evaluation system for officers that focuses on the lawfulness of their street stops rather than the number.
U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan adopted the recommendation of the monitor, Peter Zimroth, who had in an Oct. 20 letter noted "significant positive changes" in how the New York Police Department evaluated its officers.
Zimroth had been appointed in 2013 after the NYPD's "stop-and-frisk" methods, which critics said gave officers license to conduct racial profiling, were declared unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who is now in private practice.
Torres noted Scheindlin's findings that officers once faced "significant pressure" to conduct more stops, through meetings in which NYPD leadership urged local commanders to increase the number, and through performance evaluations that rewarded more stops and threatened discipline for too few.
"It appears that the NYPD has taken steps to eliminate these two sources of pressure," Torres wrote in a two-page order.
She said Zimroth should monitor the NYPD to ensure that these pressures are not reinstituted.
Court approval is also now needed before the NYPD introduces a mechanism to count stops, or changes how it assesses their quality and lawfulness, when evaluating officer performance.
According to NYPD data, recorded street stops increased sevenfold from 2002 to 2011, when they peaked at 685,724, but fell to just 12,404 last year.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)