Saturday, July 21, 2012

Beyond Stop-and-Frisk

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IN the face of growing anger over the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy, the commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, has faulted his critics for failing to offer an alternative for fighting crime in minority neighborhoods. “What I haven’t heard is any solution to the violence problems in these communities,” he told the City Council last month.
Mr. Kelly is correct that high levels of violence are intolerable and that those who would challenge stop-and-frisk — in which police officers use thin pretexts for streetside searches — must present credible alternatives. At the Yale Law School Innovations in Policing Clinic, we have been visiting police departments around the country in search of such strategies. One increasingly popular approach, “focused deterrence,” is among the most promising.
Developed by the criminologist David M. Kennedy, focused deterrence is in many ways the opposite of stopping and frisking large sections of the population. Beginning with the recognition that a small cohort of young men are responsible for most of the violent crime in minority neighborhoods, it targets the worst culprits for intensive investigation and criminal prosecution.
Focused deterrence also builds up community trust in the police, who are now going after the real bad guys instead of harassing innocent bystanders in an effort to score easy arrests.
This strategy was responsible for the dramatic decline in Boston’s homicide rate during the 1990s. In 2004, Mr. Kennedy and his colleagues successfully adapted it to combat violent open-air drug markets in the West End neighborhood of High Point, N.C.
Rather than sweep through and stop large numbers of young black men, the police built strong relationships with residents, promising greater responsiveness if they took back the reins of their community and told their sons, nephews and grandsons that the violence and the overt dealing must end. Meanwhile, the police identified the 17 men driving the drug market and built solid cases against each. In one fell swoop, they arrested three with violent records.
The other 14 men were then summoned to a community meeting. Neighborhood residents demanded that they put an end to the violence. Law enforcement officials made credible threats of prosecution, but also told the men they had one last chance to turn their lives around. Meanwhile, social service providers offered them job training, drug treatment and mentoring.
Most of the men listened. The city’s most significant drug market vanished overnight, and it has not come back. Violent crime has fallen by half.
Why did the strategy succeed? The Rev. Sherman Mason, a local minister, told us that a key factor was the decision to involve neighborhood residents in the process. As a result, the police gained legitimacy, and their relationship with the community was transformed.
While focused deterrence is among the most thoroughly researched efforts to reduce crime while building community trust, it is not the only one.
In Seattle longtime adversaries, including the police department and the public defender’s office, are collaborating on a program to authorize police officers to divert drug offenders to treatment.
In Illinois and in Washington State, efforts are under way to train officers in “procedural justice,” in other words, how to operate in a more transparently fair way, as people are more likely to comply with the law if the police treat them with dignity and respect.
New York has a moral imperative to address violence. But stop-and-frisk practices are harming the community in order to protect it, and the costs of those practices can no longer be justified by the claim that nothing else will work. There are other ways.

James Forman Jr. is a clinical professor at Yale Law School and supervises its Innovations in Policing Clinic, where Trevor Stutz, a third-year law student, is a member.

At City Council Hearing, Police Commissioner Fights Back

For the last few weeks and months, Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner of New York, had taken his lumps over various issues, from his department’s handling of Occupy Wall Street to its surveillance practices and its reliance on stop-and-frisk tactics. And with his scheduled appearance before the City Council on Thursday, more of the same was expected.
Mariela Lombard/New York Daily News
The police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, defended stop-and-frisk tactics to members of the City Council on Thursday.
Police Leader’s Evolving Efforts to Defend Surveillance (March 7, 2012)
Times Topic: Raymond W. Kelly

But as the session began, it became evident that Mr. Kelly was not going to take it anymore.
The defensive scowl etched into Mr. Kelly’s face dropped away as he suggested that the Council was notably at a loss to offer ideas — any ideas at all — for how to stop violence among young minority men.
“What I haven’t heard is any solution to the violence problems in these communities — people are upset about being stopped, yet what is the answer?” Mr. Kelly asked Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who had been asking the commissioner to acknowledge that the department’s practice of street stops in minority communities left many people “feeling under siege.”
“What have you said about how do we stop this violence?” Mr. Kelly asked, asserting that violence among minority youth is “something that the government has an obligation to try to solve.”
Ms. Mark-Viverito, whose district includes East Harlem and part of the South Bronx, was now pressed for an answer.
“There needs to be prevention and deeper community-based tactics and strategy” she offered. “Yeah, what is that?” he asked in a dismissive manner.
Ms. Mark-Viverito spent the next few moments trying to exit the debate over police tactics that she had sought, eventually saying, “I think I’ve made my point.”
To that, Mr. Kelly shot back: “I’m not certain what your point is.”
Mr. Kelly’s pugnacious assault of the Council was unusually expansive and rare. At such public hearings, which are limited to a few each year, he normally aggressively defends the Police Department and leaves it at that.
But on Thursday, he did not hold back from criticizing a Council that he apparently sees as offering little when it comes to one of his signature police strategies. In the process, he added new life to the debate over stop and frisks.
The department conducted a record high 684,330 stops last year, 87 percent of which were of blacks or Hispanics. The department maintains that those stops protect that same group of people. The commissioner said “people of color” were 96 percent of shooting victims in the city.
Resuming his aggressive style with another questioner, Mr. Kelly rebuked Councilman Jumaane Williams, who has accused the Police Department of racial profiling. Mr. Kelly suggested that it was he, and not the elected officials before him, who best represented the hope of the city’s African-American clergy who are concerned about seemingly intractable violence.
“African-American ministers came to me about black-on-black crime, and what they’re saying is there is no political leadership, there’s nobody talking about the solutions,” he said.
Mr. Williams has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of the street-stop policies, which are being challenged in court.
And at one point, Mr. Williams disputed the commissioner’s contention that the stop-and-frisks were succeeding in their stated purpose of intercepting armed criminals and discouraging people from carrying guns.
Again, Mr. Kelly put him on the defensive, observing that Mr. Williams offered criticism, but “you don’t have any answers.”
When Mr. Williams cited the results of a recent gun buyback program in his district — in which the authorities pay cash for guns with the tacit understanding that participants will not be prosecuted for possessing them — Mr. Kelly seemed slightly disdainful of the efficacy of such buybacks, even though they are a stalwart of the department’s gun-control strategy, and Mr. Kelly had earlier during his testimony cited such programs as successes.
“That’s the only answer that elected officials have,” he said.

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