It has been a little over a year since a federal court began monitoring the reforms ordered in our stop-and-frisk case, and in that time the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel* have been hard at work to make sure they are properly implemented. Since we last updated you, we have made substantive progress in the following major areas:
- New curriculum for cadet training on constitutionality and racial profiling
- Revamped training for all officers and for supervisors
- New written policies on stop and frisk and racial profiling
- The creation of a process for the department to investigate civilian complaints of racial profiling
- A new stop form for officers to fill out that eliminates the possibility of stopping based on the dangerous subjective reasons that had prevailed in many thousands of unconstitutional stops (like “furtive movement” and “suspicious bulge”) and that more accurately documents how and why stops are made
The court-appointed monitor, who is overseeing the reform process, updated the judge today on these and other steps taken to date to implement the court’s orders, while recognizing the large amount of work that remains ahead.
In his report, the monitor captures some of the key obstacles that must be overcome to ensure these reforms take hold, particularly the challenge in mid-level leadership. He begins by writing that, ultimately, “this is a challenge of leadership, particularly at the levels that interact most directly with the officers engaged in enforcement—sergeants, lieutenants, captains, precinct and unit commanders.” He notes that, “in many focus group sessions and discussions with individual officers throughout the ranks, we hear that this message is garbled by the time it reaches them. Many officers, including supervisors, do not have an appreciation of what changes are being made and equally important, why they are being made. And many appear not to understand what is expected of them.” He continues, “If, as the Commissioner has stated, these changes will improve the NYPD and make both the police officers and the communities safer, that message needs to be communicated better throughout the Department.”
We agree with this assessment. You can write the best policies in the world and have the best training in the world, but unless and until there is commitment to reform at all levels of leadership, little will change. To succeed, reform must be comprehensive: the NYPD has to overhaul the way it trains, supervises, evaluates, and holds its officers accountable to the communities they serve. A fundamental culture shift in the department is necessary.
Alongside the reforms listed above, the Joint Remedial Process continues. This process, that CCR proposed to the Court, is where the communities most affected by the NYPD’s discriminatory policing practices can provide direct, substantive input on reforms. As of last week, 40 focus groups have been convened in different locations and with different populations, including youth of color, LGBTQ youth, homeless people, and recently incarcerated people, to solicit their feedback. The information collected will be combined with other input – including large community forums – to shape recommendations for further reforms.
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* Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP, Demos, and Covington & Burling LLP are co-counsel in the case.