The NYPD Now Has to Give You a Receipt When They Stop and Frisk You

Is this going to be the end of New York's most controversial policing practice?

by Allie Conti
Sep 28 2015, 8:35pm

Photo via Flickr user Joi Ito

In New York City, stop and frisk—the controversial policing practice that's resulted in countless protests and a major lawsuit—will now come complete with a receipt for your trouble.

Officers with the NYPD are now required to give each citizen they stop and frisk (but don't arrest) a nifty form, according to a report from the Daily News. The "What Is a Stop?" slip was apparently introduced sometime this month, and cops have to indicate why a person was detained; among the handful of choices are suspicion of carrying a weapon, suspicion of engaging in a drug deal, and "other," which sounds like it leaves plenty of room open for interpretation.

The controversial stop and frisk policy is based on the "broken windows" theory of policing that calls for taking proactive steps to prevent serious crimes. Stop and frisk reached its peak in 2011 with 685,724 stops, but it's been in steep decline since 2013, when a district court judge ruled the practice unconstitutional. A spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed to VICE that the receipts were a result of that decision, but former cops and experts we spoke to are in disagreement about whether they will make much of a difference.

"It will be very easy to track the use of stop, questions, and frisks in the future—zero," Joseph Giacalone, a former NYPD detective sergeant and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told VICE. "The cops have taken it upon themselves to abandon the practice."

But while Giacalone seems to think officers will halt stop and frisk rather than file the annoying paperwork, some evidence suggests that they will just carry on as before. A court-appointed NYPD monitor released a report in July saying that some officers have solved the problem of increased oversight by simply declining to record their stops.

Jeffrey Fagan, an expert on policing at Columbia University Law School who was cited more than any other person in the 2013 court ruling, says the receipt rule might—perversely—encourage deception by beat cops. "The requirement may lead some officers to conduct stops that they don't regard as actual stops, thereby evading the receipt requirement," he told VICE.

So it remains far from clear whether the receipts—as convenient as they sound—will be some kind of panacea for the (many) problems with America's largest police force.

"Most cops I have spoken to chuckle when asked if they are ever going to stop someone and hand this receipt," Giacalone told VICE. "The mayor could never tell the department to stop using [stop and frisk,] so this was the next best way to do it."

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