EMPOWERING THE NYPD’S FRONT LINE
EMPOWERING THE NYPD’S FRONT LINE
By Patrick J. Brosnan
More bullets are flying through New York City streets this year than last. As of June 30, fifty-seven more New Yorkers were wounded by gunfire than during the same period last year due to an eight percent increase in shootings. Interestingly, murders and robberies are down significantly. Why more shootings and far fewer robberies?
The answer is a simple one firmly rooted in human nature: the bad guys are plugged into social media and television. They are keenly aware of the consequences of Judge Shira Scheindlin’s controversial ruling on the NYPD’s stop, question and frisk policy. The bad guys know that the NYPD’s diminished morale and the resulting hesitancy to use this vital tool since the recent ruling translates into far fewer searches. In fact, the chance of being searched is extremely slim, witnessed by the astonishing 89% decrease in reported stop, question and frisks in the first quarter of this year versus the first quarter of last year.
The risk/reward calculus has shifted dramatically for these felons. As a result, they are now once again carrying guns in their waistbands rather than hiding them nearby as in past years – on top of the tire of a parked car or stuffed in a mailbox. These deadly weapons are readily available again to mete out street justice, correct a perceived slight, settle an argument or send a message to rival drug dealers. It is the immediate availability of these weapons that has led to the increased shootings in New York City. And there is no longer a delay, caused in the past by gunmen running to retrieve their weapon from where it had been secreted, that allowed those critical seconds for the victim to flee.
New York’s Finest- and they are aptly named- cannot be faulted in any way. They are sworn to do a difficult and, at times, almost impossible job despite the specter of ambiguous reforms and sweeping policy changes. Even the most proactive officer’s enthusiasm would be dampened by the ramifications of Judge Scheindlin’s ruling. A ruling that has led to an unrivaled decrease in reported stop and frisk events.
Unfortunately, Scheindlin’s ill-fated stop and frisk ruling, and the resulting media frenzy, has served to obfuscate and distort the facts regarding this important exception to the Fourth Amendment- an exception clearly defined in a landmark 1968 decision by the United States Supreme Court. That decision still stands and the parameters are identical to this day: if a police officer has reasonable suspicion a person has committed, or is about to commit, a crime, he can delay them to ask questions. This should be common sense.
The meaning of the third verb-frisk- is equally sensible in this context: if a police officer reasonably suspects that an individual possesses a deadly weapon, he or she may frisk that individual’s outer garment. If an object’s contour or mass makes it readily identifiable, then the seizure of that object is justified and I can assure you that a gun feels like a gun even when swathed in clothing, having personally arrested over 900 criminals and seized over 300 loaded handguns during my thirteen years in the South Bronx.
Police Commissioner William Bratton is an enormously talented leader who has acknowledged that stop, question and frisk is a not only a vital tool for effective policing, but one that must be used constitutionally and respectfully. The Commissioner’s continued support of this policy coupled with his numerous innovative strategies ranging from predictive policing to identifying non-patrol officers and putting them back on the streets continues to drive down major crimes. I have no doubt that under his firm and intelligent leadership the NYPD will continue to reduce crime. But it is his unwavering support of this critical violent crime suppression tool that has put Judge Scheindlin’s ruling into the proper context for the troops. By clarifying its constitutional legality, the Commissioner has reinvigorated those who are on the front lines against crime. An appropriate analogy to the NYPD’s stop and frisk strategy would be our post-911 airport security policy: no one really likes removing their shoes, but it is infinitely more desirable than the alternative. The citizens of New York City would undoubtedly prefer a to have a Police Officer respectfully stop and question them than having more illegal guns on their neighborhood’s streets.
Patrick J. Brosnan, is a former NYPD Robbery/Gun Squad detective. He was named New York State Police Officer of the Year in 1990 for his efforts in taking guns off the streets and is currently the CEO of Brosnan Risk Consultants, a leading security and investigative firm, and a Fox News crime analyst.