New York City’s reliance on the “stop and frisk” tactic as part of a new initiative to combat gun violence is harming communities of color and running afoul of the law, a court-appointed federal monitor said Monday. Monitor Mylan Denerstein said the police department ’s Neighborhood Safety Teams — special units deployed in the past 14 months to seize guns in high-crime areas — were performing “unconstitutional policing” by stopping and frisking too many people without justification. In one police precinct, Denerstein said, only 41 percent of stops, 32 percent of frisks and 26 percent of searches were lawful. Neighborhood Safety Teams, a replacement for the anti-crime units that the NYPD disbanded in 2021, operate in 34 areas that account for 80% of the city’s violent crime — largely communities of color. Of the people the teams have stopped, Denerstein said, 97% are Black or Hispanic, the Associated Press reports.
Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams said city officials “have serious concerns” with Denerstein’s methodology. Levy said shootings have fallen since the Neighborhood Safety Teams were created. Officers assigned to the units “have enhanced training and oversight to ensure we are not only keeping New Yorkers safe, but protecting their civil liberties as well,” Levy said, adding that “any unconstitutional stop is unacceptable." Denerstein began her review after Adams announced in March 2022 that the NYPD was deploying Neighborhood Safety Teams to combat gun violence. Team members, wearing modified uniforms and driving unmarked cars, conduct stops, frisks and searches in their assigned neighborhoods. Denerstein said that despite their training and experience, officers assigned to Neighborhood Safety Teams “overall appear to be stopping, frisking, and searching individuals at an unsatisfactory level of compliance. Too many people are stopped, frisked, and searched unlawfully.”