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NYPD safety team making high number of unlawful stops, mostly people of color: Report

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(NEW YORK) — A decade after the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactic was deemed unconstitutional, the police are still unlawfully stopping and searching many people, particularly men of color, according to a new report issued Monday by a court-appointed monitor.

The monitor, Mylan Denerstein, faulted certain units of the NYPD’s Neighborhood Safety Teams (NST), which are meant to combat gun violence in high-crime areas.

“Despite training and experience, NST officers overall appear to be stopping, frisking, and searching individuals at an unsatisfactory level of compliance,” Denerstein’s report said.

Earlier versions of the NSTs, who wear modified uniforms and drive unmarked cars, were discontinued in 2020 amid protests that followed the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams revived NSTs after he took office.

“The NYPD is still reviewing the monitor’s report. However, the Department disagrees with the conclusions of the monitor with respect to some of the encounters the team reviewed,” the NYPD said in a statement provided to ABC News. “NSTs engage with the public lawfully and constitutionally, and since the implementation of the program they have been instrumental in the reduction of shootings and homicides that the city is experiencing.”

“As we have previously shared with the monitor, we have serious concerns with the methodology used here. However, the facts are clear: Before Mayor Adams and NYPD Commissioner Sewell came into office, citywide shootings were up by double digits, but following the creation of the Neighborhood Safety Teams in March 2022, shootings have consistently fallen and were down by double digits last year, and that trend has continued into 2023,” a spokesperson for Adams told ABC News.

The mayor’s office called stops that were unconstitutional “unacceptable,” but said that safety teams have improved training and oversight to make sure that New Yorkers are protected, and their civil liberties are safeguarded.

“As Mayor Adams always says, the prerequisites to prosperity are public safety and justice,” his spokesperson said.

After analyzing a random sample of stops by Neighborhood Safety Teams in 10 precincts, the monitor found that “more than 97% of the people encountered were Black or Hispanic,” with approximately 93% being men, according to the report.

A quarter of the frisks lacked reasonable suspicion and a third of the searches lacked legal basis, according to Denerstein.

Out of 230 car stops, two turned up weapons and another two stops recovered contraband that the monitor team wasn’t able to identify, according to the report.

“First-line supervisors are not identifying and correcting improper stops, frisks and searches, and oversight by the precinct command and the department is similarly lacking,” the monitor said.

Denerstein praised some commands consistently engaged in constitutional stops, frisks and searches.

“The fact that some commands have a very high level of compliance makes clear that lawful and effective policing are not incompatible,” Denerstein wrote. “Although some commands have 100% compliance, others fall far short of the mark.”

Shortly after a U.S. District Court judge ruled in 2013 the policy violated the Constitution, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, pushed back against claims that stop-and-frisk promoted racial profiling.

Bloomberg walked back his support of his signature policy when he ran for president in 2020.

“I’ve gotten a lot of grief for it lately, but I defended it for too long,” Bloomberg said during a campaign stop in Virginia in February 2020. “And because I didn’t fully understand the unintentional pain it caused young Black and brown kids and their families, I should have acted sooner and I should have stopped it, and I didn’t, and I apologize for that.”

The vast majority of stops, about 97%, that occurred between 2003 and 2022 happened during Bloomberg’s time as mayor, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“While comparatively fewer stops occurred during the de Blasio administration — nearly 135,000 — enormous racial disparities have persisted every year,” the NYCLU said.

Last year, under Mayor Adam’s administration, New York City police conducted more than 15,000 stops, according to NYCLU.

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