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Bill Bratton: Clinton, Trump ‘misinterpreting’ stop-and-frisk

William Bratton, the former NYPD commissioner, says the 2016 candidates for president misunderstand the police practice of stopping and frisking people on the street. Oct. 7, 2016. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are “misinterpreting” the law that regulates when a cop may stop and frisk a person on the street, former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Friday.

He said the candidates don’t understand Terry v. Ohio, the 1968 precedent-setting U.S. Supreme Court case spelling out the constitutionally necessary reasonable suspicion.

“Here we are, 46 years, 48 years, after that very famous decision, still discussing it, still misinterpreting it, as evidenced by the recent presidential debate, by both the moderator as well as both of the candidates, that it is an issue that is one of great confusion to people, in terms of what we can or we cannot do,” Bratton said in remarks at New York Law School in Manhattan.

Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, injected the issue into the race last month when he called for a national expansion of stop-and-frisk. A federal judge in 2013 ruled the tactic unconstitutional as practiced in New York City, because it largely targeted black and Latino men, most of whom had committed no crime.

At the Sept. 26 presidential debate at Hofstra University, Trump said the tactic was necessary to control crime, citing the drop in crime in New York.

Bratton, who retired as top cop last month, did not specify how he believes the candidates and debate moderator Lester Holt misinterpreted the Terry decision, though he said he doesn’t believe Trump’s expansion plan is needed.

Messages left with aides to the candidates and Holt were not returned.

Crime in the city has fallen even as the number of documented stop-and-frisk encounters has gone down, NYPD statistics show.

In the 2013 federal case, an appeals court halted the judge’s ruling on grounds she had displayed bias. The newly elected mayor, Bill de Blasio, didn’t pursue an appeal, and agreed to formalize curbs to the practice.

The Terry decision said a police officer can stop a person if there is a reasonable belief he or she has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime, and frisk the suspect if the officer has a reasonable belief he or she is armed and dangerous.


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