In a move that will have a chilling effect on the police practice known as stop and frisk, the district attorney's office in the Bronx has decided to stop prosecuting residents stopped at public housing complexes for trespassing unless the arresting officer can ensure that the arrest was legitimate.
The change in policy, which was first reported by the New York Times, calls for the arresting officer in such cases to be interviewed by the prosecutor in the Bronx, one of New York City’s five boroughs.
It is the first instance that a district attorney has taken to task any aspect of the stop-and-frisk practice. Robert Johnson, the Bronx district attorney, is the only Black official to serve as the head prosecutor in any of New York City’s five boroughs.
A letter from Jeannette Rucker, a bureau chief in the Bronx district attorney’s office, stated that the arresting officer will be required to sit for an interview in the “hopes of eliminating tenants and invited guest from being prosecuted unlawfully."
The use of stop and frisk has been highly controversial, with civil rights and civil liberties groups complaining that it amounts to little more than racial profiling, where African-American and Latino young men are routinely stopped and searched.
On the other hand, defenders of the practice, such as New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, insist that it represents an important tool in fighting crime.
Last year, nearly 700,000 New Yorkers were stopped by New York City’s police officers. Of those, roughly 87 percent were Black or Latino.
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(Photo: The Plain Dealer /Landov)