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by Peter Moskos

August 10, 2016

Forms, forms, everywhere forms

Again from someone else. This is a former Baltimore Police Officer:
What did you make the of the discussion on pp.25-26? [concerning massive number of stops] I happen to agree that lots of Terry stops go unreported. That citizen contact form is a pain to fill out. But in arguing that many Terry stops go unreported, the DOJ notes that a "stop form" wasn't completed in ANY of the 335 handgun arrests that arose from Terry stops in 2014.

Well, duh.

Who the hell fills out a stop form when they're arresting the suspect? The arrest report -- a full-blown incident report as well as the probable cause statement entered during booking -- serves as the narrative that explains all the facts. They expect the cop to write three reports for a stop-turned-arrest?!

I expect hardly anybody fills out the stop form when the end up making an arrest. Did they really limit their study of Terry stops to cases in which the officer filled out a citizen contact form? If so, it seems they ended up excluding almost all of the cases in which the Terry stop resulted in an arrest. And then they triumphantly concluded that hardly any Terry stops result in an arrest or citation. (By "citation" they must mean a criminal summons. I would guess that a majority of BPD officers haven't used that book a single time in the last year). Am I missing something?
No, I don't think you are.

Another person picked up on this, too:
This is starting to look sloppy. On page 26 they say these Terry stops lead to lots and lots of arrests. On page 28: "The lack of sufficient justification for many of BPD’s pedestrian stops is underscored by the extremely low rate at which stops uncover evidence of criminal activity. In a sample of over 7,200 pedestrian stops reviewed by the Justice Department, only 271--or 3.7 percent--resulted in officers issuing a criminal citation or arrest.”


Unknown said...
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andrewpwheeler said...

I've seen this mistake by researchers multiple times as well. In some places a stop form is mandated to always be filled out (often the as the result of litigation), but I'd guess that is the exception more than the rule.

Another thorny issue is how people treat groups of individuals stopped. If there is a group of five people, and only one gets arrested, is that counted as 1/5, or as 1/1? Often the description of the data source is vague, so you can't tell how such cases were treated.

Andy D said...

How much of it is sloppy reporting of RAS on the stop form? (i.e. it APPEARS there was no justification because the officer used the old Buck Savage "Saw Drunk, Arrested Same." type narrative and didn't articulate their RAS.

In addition, in my department we do things exactly this way: Then you make a stop and no arrest is made we do a simple report explaining the justification for the stop and the circumstances. If an arrest is made you don't do that report because it is redundant: you do a Criminal Investigation Report that goes into much more detail. Similarly with car stops: if we search a car due to PC developed on the stop (Odor of Marijuana, something observed in plain view etc) but no arrest is made, we do a short report. If the PC is result of a K9 scan but nothing is found, the stopping officer doesn't do a report because the k9 handler does one to document the scan and alert and search. IF an arrest is made the stopping/arresting officer does a much more detailed report and skips the shorter, less detailed report. Again this shows a lack of understanding of Police Work on the part of the DOJ and maybe a predetermined result of this study, which they were searching high and low for ANY evidence no matter how sloppy as justification.