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Criminology professors provide analysis of NYPD reform

Michael White and Hank Fradella are professors in the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Michael White and Hank Fradella are professors in the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

March 04, 2016

Arizona State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice professors Michael White and Hank Fradella provide a closer examination of police reform in New York City. Their analysis was published in From the Square, a blog of NYU Press. They are co-authors of the forthcoming book "Stop and Frisk: The Use and Abuse of a Controversial Policing Tactic," scheduled for publication by NYU Press this fall.

The blog post follows the release of audit results by a federal monitor's office that found in some 600 stop and frisk cases reviewed, police failed to justify reasonable suspicion in 28 percent of stops, 27 percent of frisks and 16 percent of searches.

The court monitor was put in place following a ruling by a federal judge that the NYPD's stop and frisk policy violated the constitutional rights of those subjected to the practice.

Changing the practice won't be easy. White and Fradella note that it is "extraordinarily difficult to reform police departments that have been engaged in widespread unconstitutional policing." Nearly 40 police agencies have been subject to actions by the U.S. Department of Justice  for unconstitutional policing. Those lawsuits resulted in more than two dozen consent decrees in which departments agreed to correct their policies and behaviors. 

The professors point out that consent decrees are typically designed to last five years, although federal oversight can last much longer. 

"For example, the Los Angeles Police Department was under consent decree for nine years," they write. "The Detroit Police Department was under consent decree for nearly 14 years. And some agencies, such as the Cleveland Division of Police, have been under consent decree twice."

Because the NYPD stop and frisk policy has been in place for 20 years, White and Fradella say the practice is "deeply embedded" in the department and will take time to reform. Still, they suggest there are positive signs since the policy has been addressed.  

They point to a substantial decline in the number of stops in 2015, some 24,0000, compared to 685,000 stops in 2011. Their own analysis shows that while every NYPD precinct has experienced a decline in stops, the decreases are more notable in communities that had a disproportionate number of stops involving people of color.  

The researchers also found the percentage of lawful frisks and arrests had increased, which suggests the NYPD is making progress. 

Read Michael White and Hank Fradella's blog post here.  

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