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Letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez

Letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez

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Published by Scott M. Stringer
Letter by Manhattan Borough President to Attorney General Perez urging the United States Department of Justice to begin a formal investigation of the New York Police Department's "stop, question, and frisk" policy, October 19, 2011.
Letter by Manhattan Borough President to Attorney General Perez urging the United States Department of Justice to begin a formal investigation of the New York Police Department's "stop, question, and frisk" policy, October 19, 2011.

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Categories:Types, Letters
Published by: Scott M. Stringer on Oct 19, 2011
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10/19/2011

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October 19, 2011Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, Esq.United States Department of JusticeCivil Rights Division950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NWWashington, D.C. 20530-0001Dear Assistant Attorney General Perez:We write to you today to urge the U.S. Department of Justice to begin a formal investigation into the NewYork City Police Department’s “stop, question, and frisk” policy.We applaud the Justice Department for charging Police Officer Michael Daragjati with falsely arresting ablack man on Staten Island because of his race. But the problems with the NYPD’s stop and frisk practice as currently constituted go far beyond just a few “bad apples.” What we have is a failure of theCity to acknowledge that the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy violates the constitutional rights of the peopleof New York, particularly the rights of Black and Hispanic New Yorkers.This failure cannot be fixed by lawsuits against individual officers alone. Federal intervention is neededand it is needed now.In 2011, the NYPD is on pace to make more than 700,000 stops – or about one person every 90 seconds,365 days a year. And yet in 93% of all stops, police could find no reason to make an arrest.The most common reason cited by NYPD officers for making a stop is “furtive movement” by anindividual on the street. The one-size-fits-all explanation as a justification for stops is unacceptable andunconstitutional and allows police to target black and Hispanic New Yorkers under the guise of havingreasonable suspicion. Fully 85% of people stopped in New York are black or Hispanic. Those people arearrested at the same rate
 
as whites, just under 7%.Earlier this year, the city of Philadelphia entered a federal consent decree eliminating “furtive movement”as a ground for street stops. New York should be no different.Concerns about the constitutionality of stops and the targeting of Black and Hispanic New Yorkers arenothing new. Indeed, problems with the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy have been well known for years.In 1999, then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer issued a report concluding that the street search tacticsunfairly singled out the City’s Black and Hispanic residents.
 
Likewise, in 2000, in the aftermath of the shooting death of unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo at thehands of the NYPD, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York as well as the U.S. Civil RightsCommission concluded that the NYPD street stop program was fraught with racial profiling.In response, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani asserted, “There is no racial profiling in the New York CityPolice Department.” Over the last decade, as the number of street stop have increased more than 400%,we have heard those words repeated time and time again by NYPD officials. Just this month, PoliceCommissioner Ray Kelly, testifying before the New York City Council, insisted, “We don’t raciallyprofile.”Given the City’s unwillingness to acknowledge structural problems with its stop and frisk program, itcomes as no surprise that eleven years and millions of questionable stops later, this City is still waiting formeaningful change—for a street stop policy that is designed to identify true threats rather than the colorof one’s skin.Last month, Judge Shira Scheindlin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of NewYork found that serious questions remain about racial disparities in current stop and frisk practices; aboutthe constitutionality of thousands of stops that do not result in arrest; and about the role quotas may playin driving the four-fold increase in stops over the last decade. A new investigation would help to answerthese questions and chart a roadmap for reform, just as similar investigations into police practices havedone recently in Newark, Pittsburgh and New Orleans.Given the extraordinary effect of current stop and frisk practice on the lives of millions of New Yorkers,the refusal of the City and the NYPD to acknowledge problems with the practice, and the ever-increasingrate of stops in the City, we believe it is both necessary and appropriate to begin a formal investigationunder the DOJ’s pattern and practice authority pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and LawEnforcement Act of 1994.We look forward to working with you in this endeavor and thank you for your careful attention to thismatter.Sincerely,Scott M. StringerManhattan Borough PresidentEric AdamsNew York State Senator, 20
th
District

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