NYPD Commissioner William Bratton was quoted recently in published reports as saying that the city’s stop and frisk problem has been solved, given the dramatic drop-off in the number of stops in 2013.
The numbers do appear to bear Bratton out — the NYPD reported 194,000 stops citywide in 2013, down from about 533,000 in 2012 and more than 694,000 in 2011 — but local leaders who called for changes to the NYPD’s procedure told the Chronicle that they still are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica Branch of the NAACP, is pleased that the numbers are down. He also fully supported Mayor de Blasio’s calls for reforms during his campaign, and likes that Bratton to him seems more receptive to change than former Commissioner Ray Kelly.
But he is not prepared to take Bratton’s word and move on just yet.
“I heard that statement and I said ‘Woah!’” Gadsden said. “I think it’s premature to make that assessment; too early to tell. I do appreciate that it is on Commissioner Bratton’s radar, but you have remember that we have been concerned about this for years, and some years were worse than others.
“We certainly are heading in the right direction, but you have to remember this was after there was pressure from the public, from the Council’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, from the federal, state and local level,” Gadsden said. “We have to know what will be done when we’re not looking, when we’re not watching.”
Kenneth Cohen, president of the NAACP’s Northeast Branch, also was taking a guarded approach this week.
“You do have the commissioner, and a mayor who made a commitment to address it during the campaign,” Cohen said. “We’re still waiting on that, and [Mayor de Blasio’s] commitment to upholding the judge’s decision in federal court,” a reference to a federal ruling last year that found the NYPD to be acting unconstitutionally.
Mayor Bloomberg appealed the decision, an appeal de Blasio has said he will drop, though the city has not yet done so.
The drop in stops, which began in the last two yeas of the Bloomberg/Kelly tenure, coincided with drops in some areas of crime and increases in others. Murders in 2013, for example, were at a historically low 334. As late as 2011 the city had 515.
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) said he too is not quite ready to call the problem solved.
“I’d say I’m cautiously optimistic,” Richards said. “Obviously it’s one of the goals that the mayor has set, and the difference with this commissioner is that he is setting the tone.”
Acknowledging that stop and frisk is a useful tool when applied judiciously, Richards said he believes officers in the field take the tone set at 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan.
“It’s early,” Richards said. “Both [de Blasio and Bratton] have been consistent in saying that there is a need for reform. But let’s not put the cart before the horse.”