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In response to criticisms over the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the department will begin retraining Impact Zone officers — such as those in the 103rd, 105th and 113th precincts in southeast Queens — in an attempt to de-escalate the tension that accompanies those encounters.
But the head of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP said Kelly’s proposed reforms do not go far enough.
“It’s an overnight decision,” said Leroy Gadsden, president of the NAACP’s Jamaica Branch. “I respect him, but on this issue he has to whole-heartedly put an end to stop and frisk.”
In a letter addressed to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), Kelly outlined a number of proposed reforms to the policy designed at mending the relationships between the police and minority communities.
These include reaching out to vulnerable youth, questioning precinct stop-and-frisk numbers on a weekly basis and providing new training on the department’s legal authority to conduct stops to all officers, beginning with those in the city’s Impact Zones.
An Impact Zone is an area of concentrated crime the department floods with new officers fresh out of the academy. Impact officers are assigned to all three southeast Queens precincts.
Criticism of the policy has ramped up following a report released by the New York Civil Liberties Union revealing that out of nearly 700,000 stops conducted by police in 2011, 41.6 percent were young black and Latino men even though they account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population.
Furthermore, the NYCLU’s analysis found that 90 percent of the young black and Latino men who were stopped were neither issued a summons nor arrested. Critics have pointed to these statistics when saying the policy damages the relationship between the police and the communities they are sworn to protect.
Gadsden said nothing short of ending the policy will mend police/community relations.
“Criminals know they can prey on communities with a bad relationship with the police,” Gadsden said. “They know people are not going to co-operate with the police. Now they’re the victims of the police, on the one hand, and of the would-be criminals on the other.”
A Manhattan federal judge last week granted class-action status to a lawsuit filed against the city by four black men in 2008 charging the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy disproportionately targets minorities.
“This case presents an issue of great public concern: the disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos, as compared to whites, who become entangled in the criminal justice system,” Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote. “The specific claims raised in this case are narrower, but they are raised in the context of the extensively documented racial disparities in the rates of stops, arrests, convictions, and sentences that continue through the present day.”
Gadsden said he believes the increased attention on the policy will inevitably lead to institutional change.
“We’re going to keep the pressure to bring about changes,” he said. “What we’re doing now is going to be the issue of the next election. Whoever’s running for mayor is going to have to say that he or she will not accept stop-and-frisk.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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