Change to New York’s Stop and Frisk Practices

Earlier this month Governor Patterson signed legislation that made a computerized network of stop and frisk data illegal. The database was used to track names and information about people who had been stopped, though they had rarely done anything wrong. This data was then often used to make future stops on people who had done nothing more than made themselves available to police searches and questioning.

While the new law eliminates the computer database, it doesn’t stop officers from manually collecting data on paper reports—reports the department states it will retain. So, does this move from technologically advanced cataloging to old school filing represent progress?

According to some, keeping paper records on stop and frisk incidences doesn’t have the reach as the database did. An officer on the street can’t immediately gain access to files which may show the person with whom they are speaking was stopped three times already this year, potentially coloring their interaction with this citizen despite them actually doing nothing wrong.

To many, the stop and frisk methods make no sense to begin with. For people in high crime neighborhoods, they may. Police officers are able to stop you and frisk you for their own safety even when you provide minimal or even no reason for them to think you may have done anything wrong. Your neighborhood, the people you are with, and even how you are dressed can be used as reason enough for the police to stop and frisk you.

Last year the city performed over 575,000 stop and frisks. Not surprisingly to many who are aware of the inherent bias of the criminal justice system, 87% of the people stopped and frisked were Black or Latino. However, some argue this statistical fact was only due to the minority dominant neighborhoods in which the police were abundantly patrolling.

Regardless of the reason, these stop and frisks have been used in alarming abundance and have continued to plague the same people over and over regardless of their criminal involvement. Some foresee difficulty in ensuring the NYPD follow the new law and some anticipate civil litigation may one day play a role in guaranteeing their adherence.

The privilege of the police to stop and frisk someone is based on a number of factors. Their search of your person, however, cannot violate your Constitutional rights. If it does, the evidence seized will not likely be admissible in court.

If you are facing drug charges or even weapons charges and have questions about the evidence in your case, contact me today. Together we can discuss the specifics of your case and how the evidence seized might be used.

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