Legal Aid Urges Federal Monitor to Mandate Documentation of all Police-Initiated Interactions with Civilians

The Legal Aid Society, with the assistance of Davis Polk, submitted a White Paper to Hon. Ariel Belen, the court-appointed monitor overseeing the joint remedial process in theFloyd, Davis and Ligon trilogy of cases that successfully challenged the practice of stop and frisk and the illegal arrests that resulted from it. The monitor is advising on “further reforms necessary to ending the constitutional violations” in police-civilian encounters throughout New York City. See Floyd v. City of New York, 959 F.Supp.2d 668, 687-88 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (“Remedy Opinion”).

The Paper embodied the collective experience of our staff for a wide variety of populations who interact with the NYPD – public housing residents, the homeless, juveniles, emotionally disturbed persons, LBGTQ, and communities of color. Despite a decline in the volume of reported stops, frisks and searches, both there continues to be a persistent pattern of failure to document significant police-civilian encounters.

So far the police have not been required to document field investigations or searches that they consider to be consensual, non-accusatory, or “Level 2” encounters under New York law. But limiting documentation to what the officers consider to be full “Level 3” or “Terry Stops” results in vast underreporting of significant incidents on the street and therefore impairs oversight, auditing, and attempts to improve the quality of police-initiated encounters through disciplinary measures. Accordingly the Society urges the Monitor to recommend documentation of every police-initiated encounter, and a system of graduated sanctions for chronically non-compliant officers.