Oct 11, 2013

Stop & Frisk Panel | Summary

Today October 10th, we had a panel for Stop & Frisk, co-sponsored by ACS/IJA/BALSA. 

Panel consisted of:
Samuel Estreicher (NYU School of Law)
Darius Charney (Center for Constitutional Rights)
Kent Greenawalt (Columbia Law School)
Celeste Koeleveld (NYC Corporation Counsel)
Nicola Persico (Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management)
S. Andrew Schaffer (NYU School of Law; formerly general counsel, NYPD) 
Stephen J. Schulhofer (NYU School of Law)

Here is the summary of the discussion:

Kent Greenawalt: When you have less individual information available, then race is going to be relevant in what you are going to do. If there are similar looking people among a population that is known for crime, then the stop & frisk would have a higher chance to successfully catch a criminal. However, the message sent to that population is humiliating. It is best to not take race into account and to individualize each case.

Nicola Persico: Crime responds to the allocation of manpower and not to the strategy of an individual police officer. The test for officer bias in their decision to search doesn't use disparities in police pressure but uses disparity in the success rate of searches. The problems with that comes up when the police performing the arrest is the same as the police deciding to stop & frisk.

Darius Charney: Activism and litigation feed off each other regarding this issue in the past years. This time we had a much more coordinated strategy that panned out to a much better result.

Celeste Koeleveld: If we take out the bias from the police arrest and look at the reports from people describing perpetrators, then 80-99% of many crimes are reported to be by black perpetrators. People expect police to go to high crime areas to fight crime. Skin color doesn't make you more suspicious, but a policeman’s eyes will be focused on Blacks/Hispanics due to the crime data.

Stephen Schulhofer: The reasonable suspicion standard is so far the best standard we have. If there is an epidemic of crime in a certain city, it may be very reasonable for police to ramp up effort. But when policies bear down on a certain people, there is a moral obligation for police to go out of their way to pay more attention to people's feelings and trust. A study with Muslim Americans showed 61% more likely to cooperate and alert police when they thought police were fair and trusted them.

Darius Charney: There are race based decisions that are constitutional if they are narrowly tailored to serve a particular interest. The issue then is when it is okay.

Celeste Koeleveld: It is then not a race based decision but a crime based decision. Race cannot be used to determine "suspicious or not." Race factors in the police paying more attention to a certain people in the first place.

Kent Greenawalt: But race is what pushed many Blacks across to "reasonably suspicious."
Audience: Are the police of the same ethnicity?

Celeste Koeleveld: Police doing the stops are from all different ethnicities.

Andrew Schaffer: I don't think there is data that police of color have different stop & frisk statistics.

Audience: Let's say police's resources are cut by 90%. Would it be justified to focus on minority communities?

Andrew Schaffer: Where you deploy if you had fewer resources would not be different than where you would deploy if you had more. Residents in public housing desperately want more protection due to the crime rates.

Audience: When you have such a broad description of “male black 14-21”, how is it not discriminatory?

Celeste Koeleveld: The description is not an authorization to arrest people, but data that instructs police to pay 
attention to a description. They are responding to pressures higher up and from the people to lower crime.

Audience: There are high drug rates in White neighborhoods, but fewer arrests because police are not always watching them.

Celeste Koeleveld: There are detrimental byproducts, but the police are faced with a problem and they are trying to stop it.

Darius Charney: Knowing the vast majority of 14-21 Black guys are not criminals, is this still okay? What about innocent people in those neighborhoods paying the price?

Celeste Koeleveld: The goal of these patrols is to keep violent crime down and get rid of drug dealing.

Stephen Schulhofer: The term racial profiling is unhelpful in answering these questions. How much pay off do we get by focusing resources like this as compared to alternatives? What are the costs? If you alienate young men, you may be perpetuating the problem.

Audience: What is the deterrent effect of stop & frisk and how should it be measured?

Darius Charney: There is a study that shows stop & frisk has very little effect. There are lots of studies that show a community that feels disrespected and treated unfairly increases unlawful behavior.

Samuel Estreicher: How does the community who want more protection feel? That matters a lot.

Audience: Shouldn't this be about changing the expectations of the public/higher ups?

Celeste Koeleveld: The pressure is to ask what police have done to drive down crime. The pressure is not to do something wrong but to do something good.

Audience: What about the bias in the community in how they report it?

Celeste Koeleveld: I don't think people are making it up.

Audience: Why is it not biased policing if 2 people are both doing a crime, and police are more likely to stop the Black guy?

Celeste Koeleveld: That is a selective enforcement charge. You have to present proof that there are 2 people similarly situated and 1 is being treated differently.

Darius Charney: We are all doing certain behavior, but more Blacks are being stopped because police are interpreting it as criminal.

Audience: What practical things can the police do to improve the relationships of people who are now upset?

Celeste Koeleveld: NYPD has a community affairs bureau and community affairs officers in each precinct.

Stephen Schulhofer: A lot of these community reps are self-selected or appointed by police.

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