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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Was Crimcast at the Same Trial? Stop and Frisk Expert Testimony Goes Misunderstood by The Daily News

Nickie Phillips

Fagan

The recent opinion piece in the NY Daily News titled "Expert witness against the NYPD backfires on plaintiffs in lawsuit" (April 4, 2013) severely mischaracterizes Professor Jeffrey Fagan's testimony and research findings in regard to the NYPD's stop and frisk practices and policies. Crimcast attended the trial testimony and blogged about it on April 5, 2013-- coming to a very different conclusion than the Daily News.

First, the article is dismissive of Fagan's expertise. By any standard, Fagan is, in fact, an expert in areas of policing and the law. The writer must have overlooked Fagan's credentials listed in the Second Supplemental Report 08 Civ. 01034 (SAS) filed with the federal court.

More importantly, however, the article misrepresents Fagan's findings in his extensive studies of the use of stop and frisk in New York City. The article states,

…Taking their best shot, the challengers’ top authority certified that, based on the reports, the cops were clearly right in more than eight out of 10 stops and had a documentable error rate of only 6%.

Clearly right? The data show that the hit rates from the over 1.5 million stops from 2010-2012 were alarmingly low--so low that they are worse than chanceand that the seizure of guns and other weapons is "extremely rare." The rate of gun seizures is nearly zero, with a rate of .12 in 2010-2012 and .15 in 2004-2009. The 2012 report states,

Accordingly, the NYPD Stop and Frisk tactics produce seizures of offenders, weapons or contraband that are well below what we might expect were we to stop citizens at random. In other words, the NYPD continues to produce "hit rates" that not only are no better than chance, but appear to be far worse.

As for arrests, only about six percent of all stops from 2010-2012 resulted in arrests, with summons issued in only about six percent of the stops. These results are similar to the 2010 Report findings that analyzed stops from 2004-2009.

We're not sure how these outcomes vindicate the stop and frisk practices as "clearly right." Rather it appears that something is clearly wrong. In an attempt to draw a connection between the stop and frisk practices of the NYPD and violent crime, the article concludes with mention of the decline in the murder rate in the past three months--many victims of which are black. The implicit message is that the stop and frisk policies actually benefit people of color. This is a strange, and disingenuous, connection to make given that there is no evidence that the stop and frisk practices have led directly to a reduction in violent crimes or, more specifically, homicides. Using the victimization rate of minorities to justify police practices that clearly disproportionately impact those same minorities is shameful.