The New York Police Department policy of detaining and sometimes searching anyone officers deem suspicious has prompted an emotional debate and a federal lawsuit, reports the Associated Press. Opponents argue the practice is unconstitutional and encourages racial profiling. City officials say the stops have contributed to a dramatic drop in violent crime. New York officers stopped about 700,000 people on the street last year, up from more than 90,000 a decade ago. Nearly 87 percent were black or Hispanic. About half were frisked. About 10 percent were arrested.
A federal judge granted class-action status to the lawsuit, meaning thousands of people who have been stopped over the years could join the complaint filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of four black men. In June, the New York Civil Liberties Union rolled out a “Stop and Frisk Watch” smartphone app that allows bystanders to record police stops and instantly alert others to where it is taking place. Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York officer now at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the police department should be given credit for concentrating on once-neglected neighborhoods. He believes the CompStat system has led to an unreasonable number of stops, sparking tensions between police and the communities it is trying to protect. He said reducing “something as hard as police work down to numbers is not just unwise. It can be dangerous to take policing, which is more of an art than a science, and turn it into bean counting.”