New York City police stops of hundreds of thousands of people each year are in the spotlight as city lawmakers consider setting new rules for the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice and even appointing an inspector general to monitor the police department.
The City Council begins hearings Wednesday to consider setting the new rules for the stop-and-frisk campaign.
Besides creating an inspector general’s post, the measures would require officers to explain why they are stopping people, tell them when they have a right to refuse a search, and hand out business cards identifying themselves. Another proposal would give people more latitude to sue over stops they considered biased.
In stop-and-frisks, officers approach, question and sometimes pat down people police say were behaving suspiciously – acting like a lookout or carrying a pry bar, for example – but weren’t necessarily sought in any particular crime.
The stops became an integral part of the city’s law enforcement in the mid-1990s, but the numbers have risen since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002. Officers made a record 684,330 of the stops last year, seven times the number in 2002. They stopped about 337,000 in the first six months of this year.
Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly credit the practice with deterring violence and helping drive down New York’s crime rate to the lowest among the country’s 25 most populous cities, as measured by the FBI.