Stop & Frisk | NYC Personal Injury Attorney


In 2009 there were approximately 575,000 “Stop & Frisk” reports filed by NYPD officers. Of these, only about 6% resulted in arrests, and another 6% resulted in a summons being issued. The position of the Police Department is that Stop & Frisks are an effective crime-fighting tool.  The Department holds onto the information it gathers in each Stop & Frisk “indefinitely,” with the intention of using that information, if necessary, in future investigations. Between 2004 and 2009 there were 2,798,461 “Stops” by the police, and 2,467,160 resulted in no action at all, yet each person stopped has a record with personal information on file with the police.

Certain members of the New York City Council have demanded that all the individuals, in instances where either no action was taken at the time of the “Stop”, or where action may have been taken but the person was later found “not guilty”, or was exonerated in some other way, be removed entirely from this database.  The majority of individuals affected are minorities (Black and Latino).

The final outcome of this tug of war between the New York City Police Department and the City Council has yet to be determined.  I will note, personally, as a former New York City council member, that it is my belief that any recalcitrance by the Police Department can be overcome by the City Council through the passage of legislation, if that is truly the Council’s desire.



NYPD Subject Record Number of People to  “STOP  &  FRISK” in 2008

In 2008 over half a million people in New York City were subjected to “STOP &  FRISK” by  New York City Police Department officers – that is over 500,000 individuals !  It is an all time record.   There are not many cities in the United States whose entire population reaches that number.

Similarly, the number of complaints the CCRB (Civil Complaint Review Board) expects to receive in 2009 is over 8,200.  This, too, is a record, and matches the increasing number of “STOP & FRISKS” that are taking place.

The job of the CCRB is to investigate complaints that usually deal with everything from Police Officers using obscenity to their use of excessive force and false arrests.  If charges are substantiated by the CCRB, then the matter is referred to the Police Department for further possible disciplinary action against the offending police officer.

Stop and Frisks on the Rise along with Complaints but NYPD disciplinary action Declining

Now here is the strange fact: While the number of “STOP & FRISKS” and complaints to the CCRB have been rising dramatically, the number of cases that the Police Department has decided to prosecute, after receiving them from the CCRB, have been drastically reduced !   In 2005 the NYPD refused to prosecute 2% of the cases forwarded by the CCRB.  By 2008 the percentage of cases the NYPD refused to prosecute rose to 33%–and for 2009 the percentage of refusals to prosecute is currently at 40% !

Keep in mind that cases referred by the CCRB to the NYPD for prosecution are only those cases where the CCRB has substantiated some or all of the charges lodged by a civilian against a police officer.   Yet the percent of police officers against whom charges have been substantiated, that end up being disciplined by the NYPD, decreases.

An attorney experienced in handling POLICE MISCONDUCT cases is NEVER influenced solely by any action of either the CCRB or the NYPD.    A knowledgeable attorney will rely on his or her own experience and investigation to determine the merit of a client’s case.  Experience will tell an attorney that inaction, or lack of substantiation, by either the CCRB or the NYPD with respect to charges brought against a police officer is certainly not the final determinant as to whether a client’s case can be successful.


Strip Searches

A “Strip Search,” which involves the compulsory removal of clothing pursuant to an order by some official, is a degrading and humiliating experience.  Regardless of the circumstances, this experience, in and of itself, can leave an indelible impression on the affected individual.

Most often, the issue arises when police officers are involved.  The guidelines established by the New York City Police Department would appear to treat the issue with requisite seriousness, and seem to establish certain safeguards to see that a “Strip Search” is conducted only under proper circumstances.   As is so often the regrettable case, these guidelines are either ignored or unknown  to many officers, with unfortunate results.

A recent case decided by the United States Supreme Court (Safford Unified School District v. April Redding**) declared that students may be “strip searched” by school officials “…only in the most extraordinary situations.”    The bar for valid strip searches in schools was thereby raised..

If anyone is subjected to a “Strip Search”, and if is unclear in the least to that person why he or she was subjected to that humiliating procedure, it is important to contact an experienced civil rights attorney to discuss the circumstances.  Even if you were arrested or issued a summons, the “Strip Search” itself may have been uncalled for and inapropriate, and may be the subject of a lawsuit by the victim of such a search.



Stop and Frisk – Common NY Police practice but is it legal?

The NY Times has a recent article about the New York police being on pace to make a record number of stops. In the article, they discuss “Stop & Frisk“. We’d like to provide you with some additional information about stop and frisk and when it may or may not be done legally.

  • What is “STOP & FRISK”?
  • Is “STOP & FRISK”  legal?
  • What are your rights?

The New York City Police Department is required to inform the City
Council of the number of “STOP & FRISK” occurrences pursuant to a law passed
in 2001 that followed the tragic shooting of an immigrant who was killed.. In
New York City alone, for the three month period of January, 2009 through
March, 2009, there were over 170,000 “Stop & Frisk” events!

“STOP & FRISK” is a term utilized by police departments throughout the
United States to describe an activity whereby police will approach an individual
on the street.   The approach by the police officer may seem to be a random act to
the person being approached.  If, however, the procedure is being performed
properly by the police officer, then the act is done for one of a variety of very
specific, and lawful, reasons:

  • The subject being stopped  resembles a suspect in a crime that was committed.
  • The subject is thought to be about to commit a crime based on reasonable suspicion.
  • The subject may have recently committed a crime (running from the scene of a crime).
  • The subject is thought to be carrying an illegal weapon or drugs based on reasonable suspicion.

Under any of these circumstances, a police officer is entitled to ask an individual
for his identification and even to make further inquiries. If the circumstances
warrant, as noted above, the police officer may even perform an appropriate (and
limited) “frisk”, or search, of the individual to ascertain if the suspicions were

Truthfully stated, “STOP & FRISK” performed by New York City police
officers is probably a major reason that New York City has the lowest crime rate
of any big city in the United States. Nevertheless, this certainly does not justify
an improper, unreasonable and unjustified “STOP & FRISK” on an individual
who does not fall into any of the categories justifying such an action. All too
often, experience has shown, that “Stop & Frisk” is utilized by officers on a
random and haphazard basis without the slightest regard for proper adherence to
rules, regulations or laws.

It is often the case, when innocent and honest individuals are stopped “for
no reason” by police officers, that matters tend to escalate. Police tend to expect
certain levels of respect by those they approach. They expect to be responded to,
and not to have to respond to inquires. “Attitudes” can flare up both on the part
of the subject approached, and on the part of the police officer. This is where
matters all too often lead to results that eventually require the services of an
attorney well schooled in the area of Police Misconduct.

Posted by: New York Injury Attorney Steve Orlow