As stop-and-frisks rise, complaints fall: CCRB

103rd Precinct
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

As the number of stop-and-frisks the NYPD conducted in 2011 rose 14 percent over the previous year, the number of complaints dropped by 10 percent, according to a new report by the city Civilian Complaint Review Board.

The CCRB is a non-police, mayoral-appointed agency that investigates complaints against the NYPD on allegations of excessive force, abuse of power, discourtesy and the use of offensive language.

The board did not, however, have the authority to prosecute cases where complaints were substantiated — that authority was left to the NYPD. The report did note that the Police Department took disciplinary action in a historically high 81 percent of all cases where the CCRB substantiated a complaint.

For the past two years, the total number of all kinds of police misconduct complaints the board received has dropped, according to the report, with an overall decrease of 8 percent last year.

Stop-and-frisk complaints fell 10 percent last year to 1,716, while at the same time the number of stop-and-frisks the NYPD conducted rose by 14 percent to 685,724, according to the report. It was the second year in a row that the board identified a simultaneous decrease in stop-and-frisk complaints and an increase in incidences.

Two Queens precincts broke into the top 10 throughout the five boroughs in stop-and-frisk numbers last year, with Jackson Heights’ 115th Precinct ranking fourth and Jamaica’s 103rd coming in ninth.

According to the CCRB, people were most likely to register a complaint about a stop-and-frisk encounter if they were searched. Officers conducted searches in 9 percent of street stops, the CCRB found, and of the 1,716 stop-related complaints the board received last year, 59 percent were related to a search.

Stop-and-frisk has been a heated topic of debate ever since the New York Civil Liberties Union released its analysis of NYPD figures earlier this year, showing the majority of stops were of young black and Latino men who had neither been arrested nor issued a summons.

NYCLU Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn said he believed the decrease in complaints reflected a loss of public confidence in the CCRB as opposed to fewer complaint-worthy stop-and-frisk practices.

“Given how much anger there seems to be about stop-and-frisk practices over the past few years, it’s hard to believe stop-and-frisk is happening in a nicer way,” he said.

In response to public outcry over the NYCLU’s report earlier this year, the city announced the CCRB would be granted the authority to prosecute substantiated complaints, although the police commissioner would have the final word.

Dunn said he hoped this measure would reinstill public confidence, but added there were still concerns about the effectiveness of CCRB investigations.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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