Polls Shows Opposition to NYPD Stop and Frisk Strong; Queens Civil Rights Lawyer Rochelle Berliner Says the Time to Change the Policy is Now

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According to a Quinnipiac University poll released November 21, a majority of New Yorkers now oppose the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy. Queens civil rights lawyer Rochelle Berliner says it's time for the New York City Council to pass a bill, introduced by Communities United for Police Reform, which intends to decrease racial profiling resulting from this policy and create an Inspector General’s office to begin regularly monitoring NYPD procedures.

"New Yorkers see that stop-and-frisk is an infringement of their rights, and they think it should stop," said Queens civil rights lawyer Rochelle Berliner. "The City Council must end this policy."

A new poll by Quinnipiac University, released November 21, carries a clear call for change from New York City voters to city government: 55 percent of those polled disapprove of the New York City Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy. It's a call the New York City Council should — and can — heed, said Queens civil rights lawyer Rochelle Berliner.

According to the Quinnipiac poll, the numbers are even starker among minority communities, with 70 percent of Black voters and 64 percent of Hispanic voters disapproving.

"New Yorkers see that stop-and-frisk is an infringement of their rights, and they think it should stop," Berliner said. "The City Council must end this policy."

The Council can act by passing the Community Safety Act, a four part bill which aims to fight discriminatory profiling in stop-and-frisk procedures and creates an Inspector General’s office regulating NYPD policies, Berliner said. Most other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, CIA and police departments in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington DC have some form of impartial supervision. The NYPD is one of only a few city departments not subject for review.

The law comes as a result of the ongoing debate concerning the way NYPD conducts and chooses persons to stop-and-frisk. Supporters of the proposed law claim NYPD officers abuse the right to enact the stop-and-frisk law and use racial profiling as a technique to select targeted individuals and meet summons quotas. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, Hispanics and African-Americans account for 87 percent of individuals stopped by the NYPD.

"NYPD officers are required to meet a quota for stop-and-frisks each year," Berliner said. "In order to avoid repercussions from not meeting these quotas, many officers use racial profiling to choose stop-and-frisk searches. This has lead to an unprecedented amount of unwarranted and abusive arrests."

New York stop-and-frisk reports have steadily increased over the past decade. In 2011, NYPD reported a total of 685,724 stops, an increase of 14 percent from 2010. This year, NYPD project an even greater number of stops, already setting a record with 203,500 stops during the first quarter of 2012.

If the Community Safety Act goes into effect, Bill 881 of the act calls for the creation of an Inspector General Office to routinely review NYPD policies, such as the way officers choose recipients of, as well as how they conduct stop-and-frisk routines. It will set standards in targeting individuals based on ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and housing and immigration status in an effort to decrease the disproportionate racial impact of the stop-and-frisk law.

The law would require officers to identify themselves with name and rank to subjects of a stop-and-frisk encounter. Additionally, Police officers would have to explain to each citizen that they have the right to refuse a search when there is no warrant or probable cause. Furthermore, in order to better protect New Yorkers against unlawful searches, NYPD would have to obtain proof of this consent. Other states, such as Colorado and West Virginia already have similar laws in place.

"Often times, police officers use unlawful intimidation during a stop-and-frisk routine in order push an individual to their limits, setting him or her up for an arrest," says Queens defense attorney, Rochelle Berliner. "Adopting the Community Safety Act would help protect New Yorkers who need it most, those who are most unacquainted with their rights."

Opposition to the Community Safety Act, which includes both Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelley, claim current stop-and-frisk protocol has helped to decrease crime rates over the past ten years to 512 in 2011. Homicides in New York have decreased significantly from 2,262 murders reported by the NYPD In 1990. Robberies have declined by more than 80,000, from 100,000 in 1990 to around 20,000 in 2011 and burglary in New York has plummeted from 122,055 in 1990 to 18,835 in 2011.

According to the Mayor, current stop-and-frisk policy has been a central strategy for reducing gun violence. Nonetheless, a gun was recovered in approximately .001 percent of the 685,724 stops conducted in 2011. Furthermore, there have been no studies conducted proving any correlation between the decrease in criminal activity in the state of New York and stop-and-frisk methods used by the NYPD.

"Current stop-and-frisk policy allows for police to get away with questioning and searching almost any citizen without reasonable cause, and New Yorkers can clearly see why that's a problem," expresses Berliner. "I urge fellow New Yorkers to put pressure on The New York City Council to approve the Community Safety Act and preserve our fourth amendment right against unreasonable search and seizures."

Rochelle Berliner is a native New Yorker and defense attorney in Queens. She has over 20 years experience representing criminal defendants and nearly seven years representing civil rights cases. Along with her experience and dedication representing individuals and communities unfairly treated by other individuals or governments, Rochelle Berliner also passionately and aggressively defends clients as a Queens criminal defense attorney. She has worked long-term and short-term investigations at the New York County District Attorney's Office of Special Narcotics, as well as has an additional background in Broadcast Journalism.

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