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Independent police monitor releases report on stop-and-frisk procedures

18th March 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Fritz Esker
Contributing Writer

On this past Wednesday, the Independent Police Monitor released the “Review of the New Orleans Police Department’s Field Interview Policies, Practices, and Data,” examining the department’s “stop and frisk” procedures.

The report was originally intended to determine if the stop-and-frisk practices met legal standards. The stop and frisk procedure can be a tool for investigating potentially criminal activity, but it is vulnerable to abuse and violations of constitutional rights.

“We are looking very thoroughly at this issue,” said Susan Hutson, New Orleans Independent Police Monitor. “This report is important for the people of New Orleans because citizens complain of profiling and unfair targeting regularly…If the NOPD implements our recommendations, it will help to heal the police/community divide on this issue.”

The report could not fully determine if the NOPD’s policies met with legal standards. After requesting a review from the Office of the Inspector General, the monitor determined the data was flawed and could not be statistically analyzed.

Hutson said the data provided by the NOPD was too vague. Many of the incidents were entered into the system as resulting from catch-all descriptions such as “suspicious person” or “call for assistance.” Neither designation provided enough information to determine if the stop was legitimate.

Other issues arose, too. If a car was stopped and there were three passengers inside, the entries did not make it clear if one person in the car was searched or if all three were searched.

Aside from improving its data input and collection, the report also recommended that NOPD officers receive better practical training on when to implement the stop-and-frisk policy. There are gray areas on when to conduct searches and it can be difficult for an officer to know what the right choice is in the heat of the moment.

“The 4th Amendment is tough,” Hutson said. “You really have to look at a lot of cases to understand what it means.”

Other recommendations-invol­ved quality control measures. In making the report, Hutson’s team studied police forces in other cities. One recommendation is to hand out a receipt or a business card to any person who has been subject to a search. This way, the person has a record of the stop, the officer’s name, and why the search occurred.

Ursula Price, executive director of community relations for the New Orleans Office of Inde­pendent Police Monitor, said the community should continue to demand accountability for issues they are concerned about, asking for answers and identifying policies that they want to change. The recently released report was initiated because the public wanted an evaluation of the stop and frisk procedures.

“If the community is concerned about something, they should take up the mantle and demand change,” Price said.

The NOPD did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

This article originally published in the March 18, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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