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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.

Filtering by Tag: stop and frisk

STOP Documentary: Stop and Frisk in NYC, Floyd v. City of NY

Nickie Phillips

Documentary Screening and Q&A at St. Francis College, Fall 2015

Spencer Wolff, Director & Producer of STOP, Nickie Phillips, criminologist



"STOP is a feature length documentary about Floyd v. City of New York, the class-action lawsuit that challenged the New York City Police Department’s practice of stop & frisk, and resulted in the landmark decision finding the practice unconstitutional." - STOP: A Film About Stop & Frisk in New York City


Stop and Frisk Audio

Nickie Phillips

This video is not new, but in light of the recent federal appeals court case that removed Judge Shira Scheindlin from the case effectively halting her orders for stop and frisk reforms, it is a reminder of the accumulating evidence that stop and frisk–as it is currently enforced–is blatantly unconstitutional. 

As The Nation reports,

Alvin’s treatment at the hands of the officers may be disturbing but it is not uncommon. According to their own stop-and-frisk data, the NYPD stops more than 1,800 New Yorkers a day....

...The audio also betrays the seeming arbitrariness of stops and the failure of some police officers to fully comprehend or be able to articulate a clear motivation for carrying out a practice they’re asked to repeat on a regular basis.

...NYPD spokespeople have said that stop-and-frisk is necessary to keep crime down and guns off the street. But those assertions are increasingly being contradicted by the department’s own officers, who are beginning to speak out about a pervasive culture of number-chasing.

For the full Nation article, click here.

Stop and Frisk Appeal is Anti-Civil Rights

Nickie Phillips

Mayor Bloomberg just doesn't get it

graphic: ACLU

The judgment in Floyd v. City of New York this week was a victory for the countless New Yorkers of color who over the years have been subject to illegal stops and frisks. As Crimcast has previously written, the case was mired in statistics as to the alleged effectiveness of stop and frisk as a police tool.  Judge Sheindlin, however, made clear that statistical arguments were peripheral to the main issue, the constitutionality of the stops. She explained that stop and frisk, as practiced by the NYPD, through a lack of a required, individualized notion of reasonable suspicion -- such as simply being in a designated high crime area-- indirectly generates unconstitutional stops and frisks that people of color are much more likely to experience.  We applaud her for refusing to let a false notion of increasing public safety through stop and frisk (see this report from John Jay College, Center on Race, Crime, and Justice) erode important Constitutional rights.  She has imposed increased oversight over the practice of stop and frisk and a better articulated reporting of the circumstances that factor into individual stops and frisks.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg refuses to accept the judgment, arguing that the stop and frisk as practiced is a needed part of the city's crime-fighting arsenal and that the practice does not constitute racial profiling, directly or indirectly.  The city will file an appeal, apparently unwilling to take to heart the lived experience of many of its own citizens of color.

As Prof. Delores Jones-Brown points out in her blog post on The Crime Report:

In this, the 50th year, of the March on Washington, when thousands of Americans joined with African Americans to affirm their rights as full-citizens of the United States, especially their right to freely use public space, it is tremendously disheartening to see that in a city as diverse as New York  with the largest and most respected police force,  these high level public officials fail to yield to overwhelming evidence that a decade-long practice, however  well-intentioned,  has deprived many law-abiding New Yorkers of the very rights that were adamantly fought for a half century ago.

photo (3)

Crimcast senses that a new civil rights era is galvanizing to pave the road ahead.  With the controversy around this and the recent George Zimmerman trial, we see that the forces that would take the civil rights era backwards need constant checking by people who value the principle of equality for all.  Judge Sheindlin takes us forward, the jury in the ZImmerman case and Mayor Bloomberg would take us backwards, but the crowds expected at the anniversary March on Washington event on August 24, 2013, will no doubt show which direction Americans want to go.

Stop and Frisk Political Discourse in NYC at a New Low-Point

Nickie Phillips


Dr. Delores Jones-Brown's response in Black Star News to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent defensive statements about the city's stop and frisk policies explains why the rhetoric is only getting worse.  She writes:

"Someone close to Mayor Michael Bloomberg should pull him aside and let him know that by continuously convening press conferences where he announces that Blacks are under-stopped and that Whites are over-stopped he looks and sounds eerily like George Wallace, standing on the steps of the Alabama State capitol in 1962 declaring, 'Segregation today, Segregation tomorrow, Segregation forever.'”

Read more here.

Lucky Guy Tom Hanks Heads Journalistic Ensemble and Challenges NYPD

Nickie Phillips

Lucky Guy Tom Hanks Heads Journalistic Ensemble and Challenges NYPD Guest post by Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD1924

There has been much ado this year about the NYPD stop and frisk policies, which NYPD and prosecuting authorities claim makes the streets of New York safer, and others claim promotes racial profiling.  At the time of this writing, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin is considering the case of David Floyd et al v. The City of New York, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 08-1034.  This was not the first racial controversy to be visited upon the NYPD, nor is it likely to be the last.  So I said when originally drafting this review, then I read the recent report in The New York Times article by Frances Robles and N. R. Kleinfeld that the Brooklyn District Attorney Conviction Integrity Unit is looking into some 50 murder cases assigned to “acclaimed” homicide Detective Louis Scarcella, who handled cases in the 1980s and 1990s, during the crack epidemic.  On May 24, Robles wrote a follow up piece in which she said that many of the original Scarcella witnesses were either now dead or hard to find.

The same time period – and some of the same issues – are  regarded in the late Nora Ephron’s journalistic play (and ode to journalists), Lucky Guy. The play depicts a painful piece of Policing Past – the scandal surrounding the sodomy of Abner Louima while in custody for a minor offense, at the hands (and toilet plunger) of policemen in Brooklyn’s 77th Precinct. (A former professor of mine, at a dinner party at his Ditmas Park home, pointed out is a local site of notoriety).  As a former criminal appeals attorney and appellate judicial law clerk, I find this play brings out the parenthetical writer in me.

Many people are writing about Tom Hanks’ acting, and there is no question that he is an extraordinary actor in an extraordinary role (going from hungry cub reporter to cancer ridden Pulitzer-winner in the course of the show, without the benefit of few months in between to alter his body, as he did in Cast Away). Rather, this is an ode to ensemble playing, indeed, at the inferential gestures of Hanks himself. As I have told a number of people who have asked me how he was, I have pointedly noted that upon his entrance to thunderous applause, he briefly nodded (as if to nicely say, “yeah, I know, I’m Tom Hanks, now can I please go to work?”) and then disappeared into the role of columnist Mike McAlary and the workaday newsroom.

Lucky GuyBroadhurst TheatreCourtney B. Vance, as Hanks’ boss Hap Hairston, gives what may be the Best Featured Actor Tony performance of the season. Vance variously nurtures, harangues, disciplines and celebrates the reporter who broke the Louima case (the Haitian immigrant is played with earnest compassion by Stephen Tyrone Williams, whose one scene turn reminded me that Judy Dench won an Oscar for 8 minutes in Shakespeare in Love).  As Hanks shows McAlary to be a journalist in a hot mess for going after a rape victim he libelously (but seemingly earnestly) accused of fabrication.  McAlary then takes a call when literally half-dead to show up at Louima’s hospital bedside, the reporter was in search of redemption. After hearing Louima’s story of oral and anal sodomy by police officers in the police station toilet, he tells him, “tell the DA you talked to a reporter.” Those who do not remember a world before cell phone images and videos are well-tutored by the oral history inextricably intertwined by Ephron with action scenes.

The play has been criticized for being too talky, but as one who engaged in ethnographic write up of the criminal trials of Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian for a PhD, I can attest that the play was all talk and all action. The search for breaking news, the hanging out on the doorsteps for exclusives, the smoke-filled newsrooms that today would be smoke free and blasting into the blogosphere and Twittersphere are reminiscent of the days (in 1996, especially) when print, radio and television reporters literally lined the walls of a courthouse and (in 1997) literally pitched a tent on the courthouse green. To me, the detail development was enthralling, perhaps because I have had to live in, and observe, that headspace as both a doctoral candidate and a writer. Wives (like Maura Tierney, as McAlary’s), husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends were left aside (if not completely behind), where the social world of the courthouse (to borrow a phrase from LSE sociologist Paul Rock) ruled, even more than the holdings of the court and the judges themselves. For me, the process fascinates, and the professional development (and personal unraveling) of the newsroom journalists and editors was well-worth every word, every gesture, every image and scene depicted in David Rockwell’s set.Lucky Guy Broadhurst Theatre

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year. Her first book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press, 2012) (100 year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of meI dia) has been nominated for the2013 BSC Criminology Book Prize.  Her PhD, from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Law and Department of Sociology (dual registration), was awarded in 2009, based upon her dissertation of an ethnography entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian, in which she studied the chief prosecuting attorneys/judges, juries, patient’s family members and the media, as well as the changes in law and court culture pertaining to Kevorkian.

Being Black is Not a Crime: Rally for NYPD Stop and Frisk Reform

Nickie Phillips

panorama crowd

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and City University of New York (CUNY) faculty and students, including John Jay College's Center on Race, Crime and Justice, came together to call for police reform outside Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York where the trial Floyd, et. al. v City of New Yorkfeatured key testimony from criminologist Jeffrey Fagan.  In Floyd, several New Yorkers and CCR are arguing that the city's stop-and-frisk policies include racial profiling and suspicion-less stops that violate constitutional protections.

Organizer and Founding Director of the Center on Race, Crime and Justice Dr. Delores Jones-Brown underscored that black and Latino residents have the same constitutional rights and right to safety as anyone else.  "The commissioner and the mayor may say that these policies are effective, but their own data tell a different story," she said.

Activists held giant PowerPoint slides with NYPD data indicating that gun violence has not decreased as a result of aggressive use of stop and frisk, nor were more guns confiscated or shootings prevented.  In 9 out of 10 NYPD stops, no arrests or summons are given -- and of those stops nearly 90 percent are non-whites.  In 2012, over a half-million blacks and Latinos were stopped.  Black and Latino young men between the ages of 14 and 24 are particularly plagued by unjustified stops, accounting for approximately 42% of stops when they are only 5% of the city's total population.

Several CUNY students spoke about their personal experiences with racial profiling and suspicion-less stops, putting faces to the statistics being debated about in the courtroom.  One white student described an incident in which he should have received a summons for two potential violations, but instead was released politely by police, while a student of color described being the victim of police abuse of the stop and frisk policy while he was doing nothing illegal.  Other activists linked the struggle for racial equality with similar struggles for police justice for LGBTQ people and the poor.

Queens College Professor Harry Levine explained that the sheer number of marijuana arrests in the city are largely the fruit of illegal frisks, saying that "The marijuana arrests are the cracker jack prize of the stop and frisks."

Crimcast sat in on expert witness Fagan's cross-examination in which sweeping questions about the normative methodological and theoretical mainstays of criminal justice were posed.  The city's attorney appeared to want to discredit Fagan's social science because the conclusions to his prior studies point to racially disparate outcomes in stop and frisk police discretion.  Rather than confront the lived reality of individuals who routinely endure suspicion-less stops, today's testimony instead had social science on the stand.  As criminologists we were surprised to learn that the city attorney hoped our field had solved major methodological quandaries of our time in completely packaged and unanimous ways, such as how to handle outlier data or whether population is a legitimate benchmark among others for stop and frisk activities.  Fagan dodged this baiting, and informed her of the true landscape of methodological variation in the field-- and in fact wise minds may take different approaches to monumentally complex datasets.

Crimcast predicts that this trial transcript may be of interest to criminologists regarding the application of their work to major policy issues of the day.  Some may even be excited to learn that academic criminology is relevant.  But we hope Floyd does not forget Floyd.  He and many others encounter the police as obstacles in going about their legitimate daily lives.  The chilling quality of these serious Constitutional violations and personal indignities are not fully captured by the numbers.

Stories of Stop & Frisk

Nickie Phillips

The Scars of Stop & Frisk, NY Times

For more info, see Communities United for Police Reform.

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented, non-partisan campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect — not discriminatory targeting and harassment.

Flexing Your Rights on The Good Wife

Nickie Phillips

Flex Your Rights hosts a website that provides information to the public about the protection of civil liberties. For several years, I've used Flex Your Rights' "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" and "Busted!" DVDs as teaching tools for illustrating ways to protect one's constitutional rights during police encounters. They are superb. The videos cover car stops, stop & frisks, and home searches. You can purchase the DVDs here.

This week, Flex Your Rights notes that the season premiere of The Good Wife is inspired by a real-life traffic stop and search (a federal lawsuit regarding the officers' records of past stops is pending).

The video clip of the stop that inspired the show, Breakfast in Collinsville, is posted on YouTube:

10 Rules for Dealing With Police

"The gist: On December 4th 2011, StarTrek fans Terrance Huff and Jon Seaton are stopped illegally after a StarTrek Exhibition for suspected drug transportation in Collinsville, Illinois. Award winning filmmaker Terrance Huff does a breakdown of an illegal traffic stop and subsequent search involving a K9 Officer who has a questionable past."

For more, about Flex Your Rights and The Good Wife, go here.

Popular Culture and the 4th Amendment: Jay-Z's 99 Problems

Nickie Phillips

Great analysis and advice from Caleb Mason on the 4th Amendment. "Jay-Z's 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading with Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps." Saint Louis University Law Journal 56:567.

via Coudal Partners:

FORA TV interview with Jay-Z 99 Problems Decoded. Click here.