Constitutional Law

State AG: Only a small fraction of stop-and-frisks end with convictions; NYC: Report is 'flawed'


Stopping and frisking certain individuals without initially having probable cause for an arrest is a controversial police tactic, albeit one approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Terry v. Ohio decision.

New York City is defending a civil rights case over its stop-and-frisk practices and recently won a victory in the ongoing court battle with the removal of the federal judge in charge of the case, for a claimed appearance of impartiality, by a three-judge panel of the New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But now the city is playing defense again after a Thursday report (PDF) by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that finds only a small fraction of the cases brought due to stop-and-frisk arrests result in significant convictions. CBS New York reports. The article includes information from the Associated Press.

Analyzing data from 2.4 million stops between 2009 and 2012, the AG’s office found the stops resulted in 150,000 arrests, representing 6 percent of the total stops. Of those arrests, only half resulted in convictions and most of the convictions did not require any additional time served (arrestees may have been jailed prior to conviction). Over 98 percent of all stops resulted in no post-conviction jail or prison sentence and only 0.1 percent of all stops resulted in a jail or prison sentence of over one year, the AG’s report says.

“My office’s analysis of the city’s stop-and-frisk practices has broad implications for law enforcement, both in New York City and across the state. It’s our hope that this report—the first of its kind—will advance the discussion about how to fight crime without overburdening our institutions or violating equal justice under the law,” said Schneiderman in a press release. “The vast amount of data we analyzed over four years should serve as a helpful guide to municipalities and law enforcement officials around the state, where stop-and-frisk practices are used to varying degrees.”

In response, New York City police called the AG’s report “flawed” and noted that it contained no recommendations, the Associated Press reports. The department also argues that the stop-and-frisk tactic tends to have a deterrent effect on crime even when it does not result in arrests and convictions.

Critics say the stop-and-frisk tactic tends to be used disproportionately against minorities, and the AG’s report shows that far more black and Hispanic men were subjected to it than whites or those of other races.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Civil rights probe launched against Barneys and Macy’s by state attorney general”

ABAJournal.com: “Kinder, gentler 2nd Circuit softens Scheindlin criticism, but sticks with removal order”

New York Daily News: “State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is looking into the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy”

The Oyez Project (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law): “Terry v. Ohio”

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