A federal-court monitor of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices reported Tuesday that compliance with reforms is still incomplete, with 28 percent of officers using new forms failing to identify an adequate constitutional basis for their stops.
Monitor Peter Zimroth also reported that analysis of 600 reports on the new forms found that 27 percent didn’t report a legal basis for a frisk, 16 percent didn’t report a legal basis for a search, and supervisors repeatedly approved the reports despite the deficiencies.
“It is apparent from focus group sessions and discussions with individual officers throughout the ranks that many police officers, including supervisors, are not well informed as yet about the changes underway or the reasons for them and, therefore, have yet to internalize them,” Zimroth wrote. “Many appear not to understand what is expected of them.”
He put the onus on NYPD Commissioner William Bratton to do a “better” job reinforcing the need for change.
“Ultimately, this is a challenge of leadership,” Zimroth said.
The report was the second Zimroth has filed with Manhattan U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres. The judge is overseeing implementation of reforms after court rulings that the NYPD under Mayor Michael Bloomberg engaged in widespread unconstitutional stop and frisk practices that discriminated against minorities.
Zimroth confirmed, consistent with NYPD statistics, that stops have been reduced dramatically, from 685,000 in 2011 to 45,787 in 2014 and 24,000 in 2015. Lawyers for the plaintiffs who took the NYPD to court say minorities are still overrepresented but Zimroth did not discuss the reasons for that in his report.
“I expect and hope going forward that it is an issue that will be addressed,” said Darius Charney, one of the lawyers who brought the case. “That’s what we expect. We want to look into that, what’s behind that, and I have full confidence the monitor will address it.”
Zimroth, who is required to file reports periodically with the court, did acknowledge that numerical declines were only one measure of the success of changes in training and discipline the NYPD is implementing.
“The focus should not be on the number of stops per se, but rather on the lawfulness of the stops and whether the encounters are conducted in accordance with the Department’s principles of ‘courtesy, professionalism and respect,’ ” he wrote.
The new forms in use for stops limit the preprinted checkboxes officers can use to justify a search and eliminate some overused catchall categories — such as “furtive movement” — while requiring more of a narrative and review of the basis of the stop by supervisors.
Officers also have tear-off stubs for people stopped but not arrested. Zimroth said in addition to substantial failures in articulating a sound basis for a stop, officers were frequently not giving out the receipts, and rarely filled out a stop form at all when an arrest wasn’t made.
In another court-ordered reform, the NYPD is supposed to equip officers in some precincts with body-worn cameras to see if they cut down on abusive stop-and-frisk practices. Zimroth said procurement of the cameras, a key step in that program, will take at least until late summer.