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Shea: NYPD has no need to use stop and frisk as crime fighting tool

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday that the

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday that the department has no plans to resume stop and frisk tactics.   Credit: Corey Sipkin

A return to stop and frisk tactics among NYPD officers would be a mistake, even in the face of increased violent crime on the streets, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday.

In an interview on NY1, Shea acknowledged that the city took a step backward last week as shootings increased dramatically after a period of what he called “small incremental improvements.”

Over the weekend, the city recorded at least 40 shootings, compared to eight at the same time in 2019, according to preliminary NYPD data. Victims wounded over the weekend numbered 51, compared to eight last year.

The weekend bloodshed contributed to a worsening violent crime picture, with shootings up 142% last week from the same period a year ago. The number of shooting victims increased 160% over the same period in 2019. So far this year, shootings are up 82% over 2019, while those wounded increased 88.5%, the data showed.

“There are still far too many guns on the street,” Shea said. “We need the resources, we need support, we need a few things.”

But the one thing Shea said the NYPD doesn't need to do is reboot stop and frisk tactics, which he said contributed to over-policing. At its peak in 2011, cops performed close to 700,000 stop and frisks, drawing an outcry from minority communities and a federal lawsuit. In 2013, a Manhattan federal judge ruled that the NYPD's use of a large number of stop and frisks was indirect racial profiling because of its impact on defined racial and ethnic groups.

A 2015 directive from then-NYPD Commissioner William Bratton issued strict new guidelines that forbid cops from using the stop and frisk tactic on someone based on a general description, including age and race. 

Five years later, officers are using the tactic in close to 13,000 stops, and the practice is subject to the review of a special federal court monitor. In the interview, Shea said the NYPD was going to continue to rely more on precision policing, targeting crime hot spots and known offenders responsible for much of the violence.

“It is not about stop, question and frisk," Shea said. "I think that would be a mistake going back."

A few weeks ago, Shea noted that there had been some progress with increased gun arrests. But despite a small increase in arrests, shootings have continued at a pace in which the number of victims by mid-August has exceeded those for all of 2019. About half of the shootings were in Brooklyn. Shea said that some Brooklyn gun offenders are responsible for violence in other boroughs.

Shea said that cops have been working in a climate where restrictive laws have been put in place dealing with their activities. He wasn’t specific but apparently was referring to the controversial “diaphragm” law which subjects officers to prosecution if they use improper tactics when making an arrest. But, despite some vocal criticism, many New Yorkers want an active police presence, the police commissioner said.

“Every single community meeting I go to, people are calling for more police” to address low level offenses on their blocks, he said.

“The answer shouldn’t be lock everyone up and put them in jail, but the answer shouldn’t be a free-for-all on the streets [either],” Shea said.

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