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Trial opens for NYC stop-and-frisk challenge

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 18, 2013 at 8:54 pm •  Published: March 18, 2013
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U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin, who has said in earlier rulings that she is deeply concerned about stop and frisk, is not being asked to ban the tactic, since it has been found to be legal. But she does have the power to order reforms, which could mean major changes to the nation's largest police force and other departments.

City lawyers said Monday the department already has many checks and balances, including an independent watchdog group that was recently given authority to prosecute some excessive force complaints against police. Officers have more than 23 million contacts with the public, make 4 million radio runs and issue more than 500,000 summonses every year. Comparatively, 600,000 stops annually are not unreasonable, city attorneys said.

"The New York Police Department is fully committed to policing within the boundaries of the law," said Heidi Grossman, an attorney for the city. "Crime is not distributed evenly across the city."

The city lawyers said the expert testimony was flawed and evidence would show a correlation between the description of suspects and those stopped.

"Police are given an awesome responsibility, one of which is to bring crime down and keep people safe," Grossman said.

Street stops have risen dramatically since the 1990s while overall crime dropped in a city that once had the highest murder rate in the nation. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly say the stops are a deterrent that led to lower crime.

The city recorded 419 murders in 2012, down from more than 2,000 in the 1990s and the lowest since similar record-keeping began in the 1960s.

More than 531,000 people were stopped last year, more than five times the number when Bloomberg took office a decade ago. Fifty-one percent of those stopped were black, 32 percent Hispanic and 11 percent white. According to census figures, the city has 8.2 million people: 26 percent are black, 28 percent are Hispanic and 44 percent are white.

About half the people who are stopped are subject only to questioning. Others have their bag or backpack searched. And sometimes police conduct a full pat-down. Only 10 percent of all stops result in arrest, and a weapon is recovered a small fraction of the time.

Recent polls show a stark divide over how blacks and whites view the tactic, while among Hispanics, disapproval of the practice has grown.

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Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.