NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The federal monitor overseeing changes at the New York Police Department asked a judge Friday to sign off on revised guidelines intended to make sure that street stops are lawful and to clarify a ban on racial profiling.
In a letter to the judge, attorney Peter Zimroth wrote that the changes to the NYPD’s patrol guide are needed to clear up confusion over the department’s stop-and-frisk tactics.
“In focus groups and in conversations with individual officers about stop, question and frisk, we have heard a consistent message: The officers want more guidance and instruction about what they can and cannot do under the law,” Zimroth wrote.
Current guidelines focus mainly on what officers should do after they make stops, but they don’t spell out the legal standards governing when they can stop someone in the first place, he said.
The proposed wording tells officers they’re allowed to approach people to ask questions but adds that the questioning can’t be accusatory. It also cautions that “the person may refuse to answer questions and/or walk or even run away” without consequence.
If officers decide to stop and frisk someone, they must have a particular reason to believe that person is a criminal suspect, it says.
“The officer must be able to articulate specific facts establishing justification for the stop; hunches or gut feelings are not sufficient,” it says.
The directive on racial profiling warns officers not to take enforcement action based “even in part on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity or national origin” unless race is part of a reliable description of a suspect.
The guidelines also advised that the NYPD should hand out a receipt upon stopping and frisking someone, but should not arrest the person – checking one of seven boxes to explain the stop, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
Another federal judge ordered changes in 2013 after a class-action civil rights trial in which black and Hispanic men said they had been unfairly targeted by police because of their race. The judge found the department had unintentionally discriminated against minorities and ordered reforms, but she did not end the policy.
In a statement Friday, police officials said they had “worked with the monitor and the parties on these new procedures, which will be implemented as part of the ongoing remedial process in the stop, question and frisk litigation settlement.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union in a statement said it is important that stop-and-frisk policies are clearly written so that police officers know the legal standards that apply to them.
But Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said the measures will deter the use of a valuable law enforcement tool, ensuring the demise of proactive policing in the city and “undoubtedly” leading to an increase in crime.
The agreement that calls for increased public disclosure and more training for officers follows a scathing March 2015 report from the ACLU of Illinois that found Chicago officers disproportionately target blacks and other racial minorities in hundreds of thousands of stop, question and frisk encounters.
The ACLU found that Chicago Police officers were targeting blacks more — even in white neighborhoods, reported Suzanne Le Mignot of WBBM-TV, CBS2 Chicago.
Coverage From CBS Chicago:
Under the Chicago agreement, retired federal judge Arlander Keys to provide public reports twice a year on police investigatory stops and pat downs, and examine whether they meet legal and constitutional requirements, CBS Chicago reported. Keys also is authorized to recommend changes to police policy.
Further, Chicago Police officers must fill out contact cards any time they make an investigatory stop. The cards will document if the officer conducted a pat down; what, if anything, was found; and if the person was arrested, issued a warning or citation, or if no action was taken. The cards will include the name and badge number of the officer, the race and gender of the person stopped, the reasons for the stop, and the reason for a pat down.
“I think this is going to change the way police officers document stop and frisks,” said Karen Sheley of the ACLU of Illinois. “It’s going to ensure that there’s an independent review of whether or not they’re complying with the law.”
The NYPD is the nation’s largest department with more than 35,000 uniformed officers. The next largest is Chicago with about 13,000.
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