The NYPD has to comply with a new set of rules passed by the city council (over the veto of Mayor Bloomberg) to rein in the rampant constitutional abuses that have been going on there for years, so they’ve started telling their officers how to act in accordance with those rules.
The four-page message, sent to all commands on Friday and read to officers before their shifts over the last few days, sought to clarify the law and explain how race, as well as other demographic features, can be considered by an officer in deciding whether to act. While race can be a factor, it cannot be the only factor. For example, if a victim “describes a crime suspect by race, sex, clothing description and direction of travel, a person who has those physical characteristics and is traveling in the direction described may be the subject of law enforcement action,” the internal memo reads.
“It would be unlawful,” it adds, “to stop or otherwise engage that individual if the deciding factor for doing so was that he/she matched only the race of the person described in the radio run.”
The message read to officers in recent days appeared aimed at providing clarity. To avoid liability, officers were told, they need to “adhere closely” to established department rules and “demonstrate that probable cause for an arrest or the issuance of a summons existed or reasonable suspicion for a stop was present.”
So apparently that did not matter prior to this new law passing. Until now, evidently, officers didn’t need to make sure that they had probable cause for an arrest or reasonable suspicion for a stop. Which we knew, of course, by the mere fact that well over 90% of their stop and frisks found no wrongdoing whatsoever. If you think you have reasonable suspicion a thousand times and 950 times that suspicion was false, it’s time to redefine what is reasonable. That the NYPD actually had to be forced to acknowledge that tells you just how far down the authoritarian rabbit hole they are.