NYPD's Stop-and-Frisks Often Lack Legal Basis, Study Says

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The NYPD's stop-and-question policy suffers another hit today, as a Columbia Law School study concludes that cops often stopped people without a legal basis to do so, and didn't properly fill out the form for the stop.

The study offers confirmation for practices that the Voice reported in Part 2 of The NYPD Tapes series.

In tapes obtained by the Voice, supervisors in the 81st Precinct are heard telling cops to do stop-and-frisks to hit quotas and please the bosses, rather than for a law enforcement purpose. Adrian Schoolcraft, the officer who provided the tapes to the Voice, alleges that police officers filed fake stop-and-frisk forms just to satisfy their monthly quota.

In an October 12 roll call, a sergeant tells her troops: "If y'all try to do a canvass, try to get at least a couple of 250s and put robbery down just to say that we was out there. You stop somebody, get a 250. Go over, let them see y'all doing something about it or whatever. OK?"

She makes another reference to 250s in the roll call: "Just stop a couple of people, you know that," she says.

"Anybody walking around, shake them up, stop them, 250 them, no matter what the explanation is," a sergeant says in a December 8, 2008, roll call. "If they're walking, it doesn't matter."

Another sergeant on March 13, 2009: "How hard is a 250? I'm not saying make it up, but you can always articulate robbery, burglary, whatever the case may be. . . . It's still a number. It keeps the hounds off."

The Columbia study, by Prof. Jeffrey Fagan, finds that in 30 percent of the 2.8 million stops over five years, police either didn't have the necessary suspicion of a crime, or didn't fill out the form with enough detail to show the reason for the stop.

Fagan concluded that the highest proportion of stops occur in largely black and Hispanic areas, disputing the NYPD's contention that stops are based on crime trends, rather than race.

The New York Times has a more detailed report on the study here.

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