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by Peter Moskos

February 24, 2016

Stop paperwork

In Chicago, as in New York City, police officers have been instructed to fill out a new an extremely burdensome form every time they stop somebody. This would be great if eliminating police stops were a worthy goal.

In Chicago, as reported in the Sun-Times:
Interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante said Tuesday he hopes to counter a severe downturn in street stops by responding to cops’ complaints about the “burdensome” reports they’ve been filling out since the beginning of the year.

Escalante told the Chicago Sun-Times that officers will start using a new, streamlined form on March 1.
Street stops plummeted 79 percent in January compared with the same period of 2015. Meanwhile, murders and other crimes have skyrocketed this year in Chicago, which many cops have attributed to the slowdown in street stops.

The city and the ACLU agreed last week on the streamlined form.
Meanwhile, in New York, stops are down and reported crime this year to date is basically steady. Homicides are down 25 percent. Shootings down 30 percent.

Subway crime is reported up. Or so I hear. I'm not certain because I can't find any actual data on subway crime.

I did see this video of a guy been egged on to assault a Chinese food delivery guy. The delivery man decided to fight back, got in a few punches (hee), and lived to tell about it. But what's interesting is that this took place in the lobby of public housing, exactly where cops are patrolling less aggressively since they were accused of harassing poor innocent tenants hanging out in lobbies. While this is just one incident, it is exactly why police do need to patrol lobbies of public housing. And no, it's not just a matter of people who don't live there. It's about maintaining order.

According to one resident of public housing I spoke to, things are getting slightly worse in terms of people up to no blocking the way of people coming and going. But "it's not nearly as bad as it used to be [years ago]. But it's swinging in that direction."


Andy D said...

Have you read any of the coverage of this on Second City Cop's blog? The general gist that I see from the guys actually forced to use the Chicago form is that since the forms are being repeatedly reviewed by the DOJ and ACLU (including any previous versions kicked back for correction,) since the ACLU is using the information to reach out and fish for complaints, they just aren't making proactive stops. Chicago might be the one, real poster child for the "Ferguson Effect." Hence their oft-repeated motto, "Stay Fetal." the SCC blog's comments are almost always full of anger and frustration but this seems like the worst I've seen it, and I've been reading it for a number of years

That is not to say that they are right, but it definitely shows exactly how much resentment the rank and file feel about the way they are portrayed. Their reply to the new "streamlined" form is one big F**k you.

Unknown said...

I've read the SCC blog as well and agree the consensus there is that the fear of the consequences of where the ISR reports go (ACLU) is the real motivator. It really only makes sense for those guys to avoid the grey areas of policing and stopping people to avoid any potential negative consequences, at least until June when the judge releases the first review and coppers can see where, if any, damage is done to individual officers.

Every prosecutor I've talked to about the topic maintains that the best street police work is done in the grey areas of the law. That has held true in my own career, with a few exceptions of me all but randomly stumbling onto something, my best cases have always had a bit of a legal pucker factor inherent in them. If I limit my stops to only those where I witness an actual crime actually occurring... if, with a mindfulness towards "governmental interest" I further limit my stops to only those having committed a significant crime (one with a victim perhaps) that I actually witness? I won't be stopping to many people.

That sort of leads me to a question to which I never get answers from my liberal friends and associates. What should be the correct "hit-rate" on stops? The ACLU complained that in NYC citizens who were subject to stop and frisk were "completely innocent" almost 9 out of 10 times.


Ignoring the ignorant linguistic hyperbole, the assertion is perhaps the most important question facing modern policing with regards to stopping people. What is an acceptable success rate? No one ever answers that.

Moskos said...

If you knew that every report you submit was being reviewed with the expressed goal of potentially fucking you, well, seeing how stops are discretionary... I don't even think I need to finish my thought.

The ACLU uses a hit rate, I think, purely as debating point. I think the goal is to virtually eliminate stops except after a crime has been committed. Ie: Drop the lower legal standard of reasonable suspicion and go straight to probable cause before there is any (non-public initiated) police/public interaction.

The example I give as to "hit rate": After a call for drug dealing on a known drug corner I find four suspects, all of whom I know are actively dealing drugs on the corner. I also know somebody there has access to a weapon. Instead of just pulling up and staring at them and waiting for them to walk around the block, I actually get out of my car and start asking the usual questions. I frisk all four because, well, it's my legal right, and I want to make sure none of them is carrying a gun. My frisk comes up empty: no weapons, no drugs on plain feel. According to the ACLU report, I just frisked four "innocent" black men. But I'm doing my best to police this drug corner. And just because I didn't find anything does not mean the suspects are innocent. God forbid cops "harass" actual criminals.

Anonymous said...

I still haven't figured out how officers are supposed to get all this information, assuming that the stop is negative. Is the person detained beyond the suspension of suspicion to get this information? If an officer frisks someone based on RAS and finds a watergun do they tell the person that they are free to leave unless they want to provide information?

...and what happens if the person walks off and you turn in an empty sheet?

john mosby said...

Y'know, a city that wants to outlaw Terry stops can just outlaw Terry stops. It can be as simple as modifying the PD General Orders to say that POs will stop subjects only when they have PC of a crime, not merely RS. That just takes the Superintendent to sign something.

For a more lasting but more complex "fix," the city council can pass a bill, and the mayor can sign it.

Similarly at the state level. You'd probably get enough upstate/downstate (depending on the state) rural libertarians to ally with the urban activists to pass a bill defining the state standard as stricter than what Terry allows. You might not even need a D governor, if you have an R from the more libertarian side of the party.

But no one wants to put it in writing with their own name attached. They'd rather punt to the ACLU and eventually the courts.


Moskos said...

I don't know if you could outlaw Terry Frisks. I might be wrong, but I think it could be considered a constitutional right for police officers, based on Terry v. Ohio.

Unknown said...

My county prosecutor views Terry Frisks as something officers have the right to do for safety reasons, but they choose not/are not able to use anything recovered from the frisk for prosecution except in ridiculously obvious situations (see the butt of a pistol sticking out of the guy's pants). Essentially, RS is not sufficient for a pat down if you want to use whatever you find.

Moskos said...

And in NY State police cannot use plain feel from a frisk to then legally search for drugs. I'm strangely sympathetic to that decision (People v. Diaz) since Terry is used and abused as an excuse to feel, find, and then search for drugs. Frisk all you want for your safety -- and weapons found should certain be grounds for prosecution! -- but frisks are for weapons and shouldn't be fishing expeditions for drugs.

Adam said...

Police officers don't have a "right" to frisk anyone under Terry. The Fourth Amendment protect people who are being searched or seized, not the cops doing the searching and seizing. Terry just says police officers do not violate the constitution when they frisk someone (based on RAS). If a department wants to implement a "no frisk" policy and then fire officers who violate that policy, it can do so. And a city or state could pass its own law banning frisks. But nobody in that city/state could sue the frisking officer for a violation of their *federal* constitutional rights.

I'm all for this. Give the people what they want. If Baltimoreans don't want cops chasing people "just for running" (unprovoked, from a drug corner, upon sight of a police officer), then we should abrogate IL v. Wardlow via city ordinance or department general order. If the people are tired of arrests for quality-of-life offenses, then the police should stop doing them. If everything goes to hell and they want to bring those tactics back, they can ask for them.

Moskos said...

I see your point: Based on Terry, under the 4th amendment, you, the citizen, are not protected from government intrusion in the form of a frisk by an officer for the officer's safety. Terry is carving out another exception to the 4th amendment. This is different than saying, you, the officer, have a right to frisk. That does make sense to me. But given the way Terry v. Ohio is written, I'm not 100% certain.

john mosby said...

Prof, you may be both separating and conflating the 'stop' from/with the 'frisk' portions of Terry. If you never do the stop, then you never are in a position to do the frisk, since you are not in danger. What the ACLU want to do, and what I am modestly proposing to do via GO or legislation, is to keep the 'stop' from happening in the first place. Certainly no rights of the PO are violated by telling her not to make a stop.


Moskos said...

I always thought it was rude to ask people superfluous questions after stopping them. Especially if I had to frisk them and found nothing. Much more polite to let them go about their day than ask a bunch of personal info. So I didn't ask them and by and large didn't fill out the required stop form. (Keep in mind this was not a political issue back then, so nobody cared.) But indeed, I always that it added insult to injury to ask a bunch of questions *after* the stop was done. And indeed, people do not have to answer. So officers are free to (and do) just put in "refused" or whatever.

Moskos said...

I see. A parallel to banning stops would be banning shooting at fleeing suspects before Tennessee v. Garner. I'm pretty sure that decision was defacto law of the land in most places, based on departmental regulation or local law, before 1985.

The answer, of course, is that people do not want to outlaw Terry stops. They A) just want officers to do so based on reasonable suspicion (fair enough) and B) want to bang a few officers when the political winds blow in that direction.

I think Chicago and Baltimore are demonstrating a pretty good cause and effect right now between too few stops and more violent crime.

bacchys said...

"And in NY State police cannot use plain feel from a frisk to then legally search for drugs."

Which is where the rash of "dropsies" came from. It's incredible how loose drug-dealers pockets are. Their stashes just keep falling out in front of officers.

Is it not possible to patrol a lobby without harassing people?

Unknown said...

"This would be great if eliminating police stops were a worthy goal."

I'm all for eliminating illegal stops (i.e., stops lacking RAS). I'd think such stops cause widespread rancor and distrust of LE. Having some stranger order me around like a dog and put his hands all over me would be even more demeaning

Unknown said...

Otis Blue writes:"What is an acceptable success rate? No one ever answers that."

I don't think you can answer that without also knowing what crimes are making up the success rate. For example, if the vast majority of the "successful" stops were for marijuana possession then I'd have a very different answer than if the vast majority of successful stops were for outstanding warrants for some violent felony.

Anonymous said...

Which is where the rash of "dropsies" came from. It's incredible how loose drug-dealers pockets are. Their stashes just keep falling out in front of officers.

Dopers do in fact often try to drop or chuck their drugs when they see the cops. You're not dealing in reality if you think it's common for police to lie or plant evidence in order to get a drug arrest. Drug arrests in a high use area are laughably easy to come by. I'm not claiming it never happens but there's just no real incentive to risk the job and the pension for that kind thing.

bacchys said...

"Dopers do in fact often try to drop or chuck their drugs when they see the cops. You're not dealing in reality if you think it's common for police to lie or plant evidence in order to get a drug arrest. Drug arrests in a high use area are laughably easy to come by. I'm not claiming it never happens but there's just no real incentive to risk the job and the pension for that kind thing."

But they don't have it just fall out of their pocket during a pat-down. It's not a coincidence that "dropsies" spiked after New York decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana as long as it wasn't displayed in public.

Moskos said...

New York was a somewhat unique case in that regard. Mostly it came from consent searches combined with illegal searches/orders (eg: "empty your pockets").