Critics: NYPD stop-and-frisk demo PR stunt

The NYPD invited the media to their training

The NYPD invited the media to their training facility at Rodman's Neck to see three different simulated training scenarios where they use, and did not use, stop-question-frisk. In this training scenario which the police did not use stop-question-frisk because they received an anonymous phone call that drugs were being sold at the location. (June 20, 2012) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

Under mounting criticism of its stop-and-frisk practices, the NYPD Wednesday demonstrated how cadets and officers are trained to stop, question and search people whom they suspect may have or are about to commit a crime.

At its Bronx training facility, officers acted out three scenes that the NYPD says officers commonly encounter in the field.

In one scenario, two men, one white and one black, were stopped, questioned and searched by two uniformed officers who believed they fit the description of a robbery suspect, whose race was not given. The officer arrested the white suspect after the victim identified him. The black suspect was let go after the officer told him why he had been detained.

Wednesday's demonstration came on the heels of months of marches and demonstrations asking the NYPD to end the practice, which critics say target predominantly young black and Hispanic men.

Critics of the policy called Wednesday's demonstration for reporters a publicity stunt. What the NYPD needs, they said, is a complete overhaul, not just tweaks to the stop-and-frisk training recently ordered by Commissioner Ray Kelly.

"No amount of stagecraft or role-play changes the reality for people of color on the streets of New York who live in fear that every trip to the corner store or walk home from school will end up against the wall or face down on the ground," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director.

"The mayor and police commissioner have been talking a lot about courtesy lately, but New York City does not have a problem with courtesy, or PR -- New York City is facing a civil rights crisis," Lieberman said.

The problem is not training, critics say, but the department's policy that pressures officers to meet stop-and-frisk quotas that leads to a large number of people being stopped though they've done nothing wrong.

Some groups are urging people to refuse to comply when an officer stops and frisks them, but Insp. Kerry Sweet, executive officer of the NYPD legal bureau, said that advice is incorrect.

"If we reasonably suspect that someone is, is about to, or did engage in a crime, we can forcibly stop that individual. The law allows us to seize them. . . . Now that seizure isn't always pretty," Sweet said.

Last year, the police conducted about 685,000 stops; mostly of black and Hispanic people.

This year, all cadets and police officers will be required to take a eight-hour course on how to conduct the stops in a professional and legal manner.

But what happens in a classroom doesn't necessarily match what takes place on the streets, some critics say.

Tyquan Brehon, 21, a black man from Bushwick, Brooklyn, said he had been stopped and searched by police officers 60 to 70 times since he was 15.

He said he has been arrested less than a handful of times, including for fare evasion.

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