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November 14, 2013

Stop-and-frisk led to few convictions, state study finds

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices, ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge who was subsequently removed from the case, have led to convictions just 3 percent of the time, the state attorney general's office found.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released a report Thursday showing that 75,000 guilty pleas or conviction at trial resulted from about 2.4 million stops from 2009 to 2012. The tactic has been assailed by civil rights groups, who say it unfairly targets racial minorities.

"It's our hope that this report - the first of its kind - will advance the discussion about how to fight crime without overburdening our institutions or violating equal justice under the law," Schneiderman said in a statement. The attorney general hasn't stated a position on the tactic.

The report used police and court data to examine offenses charged at the time of arrests, whether charges were reduced by the time of convictions, and racial disparities, according to Schneiderman's office.

Only 0.3 percent of all stops, or about 7,200, led to defendants' serving jail or prison sentences for more than 30 days, according to the report. Just 0.1 percent of stops, or about 2,400, led to convictions for violent crimes, it said.

A police spokesman said the report ignores crimes prevented by the practice.

"The report is clearly flawed, which is why it makes absolutely zero recommendations," John J. McCarthy, a spokesman for the department, said in an emailed statement. "This analysis somehow just ignores situations where an officer's action deters or prevents a crime from occurring in the first place. Those situations never result in an arrest, conviction or jail time because a crime is prevented."

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin can't challenge her removal from the suit over the stop-and-frisk tactic, which she found unconstitutional.

The court said Scheindlin ran "afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States judges" by making remarks to the press while the case was pending and suggesting that lawyers opposing the tactic use a court rule to steer a case to her. The appeals court said it made no findings of misconduct or bias on her part.

New York City appealed her ruling and won a stay from the appeals court delaying changes she ordered during the appeal.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized Scheindlin's ruling and backed the city's appeal. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.

Bill de Blasio, the Democrat elected Nov. 5 to replace Bloomberg as mayor, opposed stop-and-frisk in his campaign and said he will withdraw the city's appeal.

In a separate report released Thursday, the New York Civil Liberties Union said it found a rise in discriminatory policing during the Bloomberg administration.

 A survey of 5,000 city residents showed people who had negative contacts with police, such as being stopped and frisked, were less likely than others to turn to the police when in need of help or when witnessing a crime.

 "People of color have borne an outsize burden of this injustice, but it impacts every New Yorker and the safety of the city as a whole when entire communities are afraid of the very police force that is supposed to protect them," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the organization, said in a statement.

 

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