WASHINGTON — New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy probably helped reduce crime but became a less acceptable tactic in the city as it grew safer, District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier told a group of lawyers Friday.
Lanier, speaking at an American Bar Association conference, also said she thought the policy became a target for critics because officers there weren’t adequately explaining the basis for stopping and frisking individuals.
“The way (the department) captured data hurt them tremendously,” she said.
Responding to an audience member’s question on whether she thought the policy had an impact on crime, she said it “probably did” but that it was difficult to apply the program the same way across the entire city or in different cities.
“I think stop-and-frisk became less and less acceptable as crime went down, and it became less and less acceptable in residential neighborhoods versus different busy neighborhoods, where you have a lot of transient folks,” she said.
Stop and frisk has been around for decades, but recorded stops increased dramatically under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration to an all-time high in 2011, mostly of black and Hispanic men.
A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a judge’s decision that found the department’s policy discriminated against minorities. But the impact of that decision could be short-lived, depending on the outcome of the city’s election next week. The court said the judge’s ruling would be on hold pending the outcome of an appeal by the city. Democrat Bill de Blasio, who is leading in the polls and who opposes the practice, has said he would drop the city’s appeal.
Lanier spent most of the session explaining her management style and steps she has taken to reduce the homicide rate, including investing in technology, building sources in the community and expanding the department’s social media presence, since taking over as chief in 2007.
As chief, she told the group, she pushes back against the idea that information should not be shared across the organization, that homicides can’t be prevented and that some homicides are worse than others.
She recalled that at the first murder scene she went to as chief, the homicide commander briefed her and said, “‘Chief, this is a public service murder. This guy’s a bad guy. He’s an armed robber.’
“Right off the bat,” she added, “I know that the attitude of the detective commander, the homicide detective commander, this is not the right guy to lead my homicide unit. Every murder counts just as much as every other murder.”
She said the comment embodied the attitude she routinely encountered coming up through the ranks.
“Needless to say, we replaced the homicide commander,” she said to scattered laughter.
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