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Stop-and-frisk monitor says NYPD moving in right direction but uncertainty about law remains

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-and-frisk in June 2012. Credit: Charles Eckert

The NYPD has made progress revising its contentious stop-and-frisk policies but some officers may not be reporting stops or carrying them out because of ongoing uncertainty about the law, the federal monitor supervising the changes said Thursday.

In the first report since his appointment by a federal judge, attorney Peter I. Zimroth said the NYPD has made improvements but it's a complicated, ongoing process.

"Making necessary changes will take time," Zimroth said in his report submitted to Manhattan federal judge Analisa Torres. The judge presided over stop-and-frisk litigation that led to Zimroth's appointment.

"There is still much work to be done -- accomplishing changes in this sphere is a large and complex undertaking. It is the monitor's view that this initial period has seen good progress."

Zimroth, who served as city corporation counsel under Mayor Edward I. Koch, was appointed to a three-year term in 2013 as a result of a controversial federal lawsuit against the NYPD stop-and-frisk practices.

In 2013, federal judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that stop, question and frisk practices were unconstitutionally used against blacks and Hispanics.

She ordered a number of remedies, including the appointment of a monitor, a pilot body camera program and better training.

Later in 2013 a federal appeals court removed Scheindlin from the case, in part because of public comments she had made. Early in the de Blasio administration the city dropped an appeal and agreed with plaintiffs to settle the litigation under Torres, who was selected to oversee the case.

In the 87-page report, Zimroth noted that the NYPD Patrol Guide -- the bible of policing -- was inadequate in giving cops guidance on when they could stop and frisk someone. He said the department is revising the document.

Zimroth also said he is working with the NYPD to set up a body camera program in which 1,000 cops will be outfitted with the devices citywide. It's a larger experiment than the current NYPD test of 54 body cameras in selected precincts.

While stop-and-frisks have plummeted from a high of about 800,000 in 2011 to about 46,000 in 2014, Zimroth said he has heard anecdotal evidence that cops are not reporting their stops or aren't making them because of uncertainty about what the law allows.

"Among the reasons suggested are that officers are not confident or have been misinformed about, among other things, what they are authorized to do under the law . . . what their personal legal liability might be," Zimroth said.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the NYPD said the department was revising its policies and procedures on stop-and-frisk. The department also found in an audit of several precincts that stops were being made but not "properly documented," the spokeswoman said.

"To ensure that officers are aware when documentation is required, the NYPD applied revised training for police academy recruits," the NYPD statement said.

A spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association said late Thursday that the union had not seen the Zimroth report and couldn't comment.

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