How Many Stops Would Be A Policing Disaster

Source: Wikimedia

The ‘How Many Stops Act’ passed by the City Council would create an administrative nightmare for NYPD officers that could significantly impact their ability to properly police this city.

Mayor Right To Veto

Mayor Adams rightly vetoed the How Many Stops Act, and now the City Council needs to uphold that veto. “As someone who served over four decades in the Queens District Attorney’s Office, I understand how council members likely did not grasp everything they were approving here. I had to closely review this legislation multiple times before I could genuinely appreciate how overly burdensome it would be for police officers trying to do their jobs.”

Source: PBS

“Having spent forty-two years as an assistant district attorney, I needed to very carefully parse through this act’s provisions several times before I could truly appreciate how impractical its requirements are and how much it would hinder officers’ ability to effectively function in the field while interacting with the public.”

What Cops Must Report

This act would mandate that police officers fill out lengthy forms every time they speak with a witness or potential witness during any criminal investigation. This goes far beyond the existing requirements when an officer conducts a traditional stop with detention, which already demands significant documentation.

Source: Unsplash/ Christa Dodoo

Specifically, this City Council legislation demands officers complete arduous paperwork practically anytime they talk to citizens to ask questions for legitimate law enforcement purposes. While supporters may claim it does not cover casual daily interactions, in reality, it encompasses most investigative conversations officers need to have with witnesses and residents related to public safety.

Reports For Questioning

The deeply problematic provisions in this bill would compel officers to submit reports following practically any encounter where they talk to residents while investigating crimes or having basic discussions that are vital for community relationships.

Source: Unsplash/ Richard Bell

Though supporters argue it does not apply to brief casual exchanges, the truth remains it covers virtually any police discussion with ordinary citizens related to public safety issues, neighborhood problems, local crime incidents, or developing leads in an ongoing investigation.

Canvassing Triggers Forms

Consider this regular scenario: Every time the NYPD investigates a major crime in a neighborhood, officers go door-to-door talking to residents asking what they may have witnessed.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In a standard canvass following a violent crime, a single officer may speak to several dozen community members within a couple of hours but often obtain useful information from only one or two, if any. Nevertheless, under this City Council act, each one of those conversations now creates substantial administrative paperwork for that officer, regardless of whether the interaction meaningfully advanced the investigation.

Wasted Police Time

Envision officers arriving at a shooting scene and starting to interview eyewitnesses present about what occurred. Under this new City Council legislation, it means those responding police must pause to fill out forms for every questioning interaction they have, even if the person refuses to provide any actual information.

Source: Unsplash/ Scott Rodgerson

Here’s another everyday example: If a patrol officer greets a neighborhood mom with her baby carriage and casually asks how she’s doing if the woman shares that her car was just stolen, that officer must now complete an entire bureaucratic form just because she happened to mention being the victim of a crime to him.

One Minute Wasted Daily

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has laughably insisted these new mandatory police reporting forms would only take seconds for officers to complete each one. Having worked closely with the NYPD on criminal cases for over forty years, I can state definitively there is not a single official department document capable of being finalized in mere moments.

Source: Unsplash/ Gianandrea Villa

To illustrate, if only half of the approximately 30,000 NYPD officers filled out just one additional form daily, and each one took just one wasted minute, that would total 15,000 minutes lost daily. That’s 250 hours of time officers could have spent on productive police work rather than being confined to administration. And again, that’s every single day.

Harming Morale

It’s impossible to exaggerate the damage this excessive paperwork would inflict on officer morale at a time when the force is already battling persistently rising violent crime plaguing New York City neighborhoods. It is deeply demeaning to imply through bureaucracy that leadership assumes systemic racism must permeate all aspects of officers’ daily work.

Source: Unsplash/ Matthias Kinsella

These new reporting rules effectively communicate to the police that after asking them to suit up daily, prepared to be shot at, stabbed, or physically attacked to protect fellow New Yorkers, the institutions they serve still don’t trust them enough not to monitor and document every basic interaction they have with innocent public citizens.

Discovery Issues

Besides overburdening officers with paperwork, another unconsidered consequence is these forms could become available for pre-trial discovery review by defense attorneys working cases stemming from initial police investigations. By their nature, the forms document conversations officers had with potential witnesses linked directly to the alleged crimes then under investigation.

Source: Unsplash/ Aditya Joshi

Therefore, the specific witness details and case information recorded could potentially require submitting these forms as evidence to court if the prosecution or defense argues they are relevant to determining guilt or innocence. Of course, I’m confident the Council carefully weighed all these kinds of implications before imposing even more administrative duties on the NYPD.

True Purpose?

For context, back in 2011 under Mayor Bloomberg, NYPD officers conducted approximately 684,330 of these investigative stops now under scrutiny. Yet by 2022 with Mayor Adams, that number plunged nearly 98% to just 15,102 annually. And recorded stops have remained comparably low for years now.

Source: Unsplash/ Julian Wan

Advocates of this act claim it’s needed to identify any racial biases possibly influencing who officers question. But for many years, the NYPD has already released detailed stop-and-frisk data broken down by demographics. This law seems to be an ineffective solution in search of a non-existent problem that fails to truly understand modern policing.

Minorities Suffer

If City Council members want to examine racial disparities in who police talk to doing their job, then that information is readily available from existing crime data documenting victim demographics across New York City.

Source: Unsplash/ Flow Clark

In 2022 alone, nearly 95% of all interviews regarding shooting investigations involved Black or Hispanic victims. Additionally, almost 90% of discussions with families of homicide victims were with minorities, along with over 70% for rapes and 68% for robberies. The painful reality is that vulnerable minority communities still bear the heaviest burden of violent crime, and thus interact more frequently with the officers sworn to solve those cases.

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Matty Jacobson

Written by Matty Jacobson

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