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