- NYPD introduces new policies to address "stop, question and frisk" criticisms
- The changes include tighter reporting, more training and community outreach
- The city council speaker welcomes the changes but says more needs to be done
- The New York Civil Liberties Union calls the changes a "desperate PR attempt"
After mounting public pressure from advocacy groups and a class action lawsuit against the New York Police Department, Commissioner Ray Kelly detailed changes to the department's much-criticized "stop, question and frisk" policy.
In a letter to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Kelly outlined new policies in an effort to "increase public confidence." Under the policies, officers will report encounters at a local level, and there will be training curriculum and videos for officers, along with programs reaching out to the community.
Kelly said the department prohibits racial profiling and aims to ensure a "greater level of scrutiny" by having captains of precincts "personally conducting an audit of the Stop, Question and Frisk report worksheets that have been prepared within his or her command."
"I believe these measures will help us more closely monitor the daily street encounter activity of precinct personnel," Kelly said in the letter, dated Wednesday.
A review of the training curriculum in question-and-frisk encounters resulted in a new course for officers to instruct them on conducting a "lawful stop," and the use of informational cards during an encounter providing a written explanation of why individuals are stopped and questioned by the police, the letter said.
Kelly also described a new video of street encounters that explains the an police officer should take when conducting a question-and-frisk encounter.
Separately, a new community outreach effort by the department will teach "vulnerable youth" basic computer skills, the letter said.
"The goal of this program is to provide these young people, who have come to the attention of the police department through various circumstances, such as being a truant or having been exposed to domestic violence, with a working knowledge of the latest business-related computer technologies," Kelly said. He added that he hopes this will help "foster positive interactions between these teenagers and police officers."
He said he hopes to broaden these programs in the city.
Quinn issued a statement Thursday thanking Kelly for the policy changes but said more work needs to be done "to bridge the divide between the NYPD and the communities they serve."
Donna Lieberman -- executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has described the question-and-frisk practice as "unlawful and racially biased" -- slammed Commissioner Kelly's letter as a "desperate PR attempt."
"The NYPD is out of control, and the culture and practices of the department need a full-scale overhaul so that the fundamental rights of all New Yorkers are respected and all communities can trust and respect the police," Lieberman said in a statement on his organization's website.
The letter from Kelly comes one day after U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin granted class-action status to a lawsuit filed by people who have been stopped by the NYPD, according to court documents. The lawsuit claims the police department engages in a "practice of unlawfully stopping and frisking people in violation of their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures and their Fourteenth Amendment right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of race."
The department released numbers over the weekend that touted the impact of their policy, claiming it has contributed to a spike in the number of firearms confiscated and coincided with what is shaping up to be a historically low murder rate for the city.
Comparing numbers from the first three months of 2012 to the same period last year, the number of such stops increased 10% while the number of illicit guns taken away from people went up 31%, according to a statement from police Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
New York's murder rate had plunged 21% year-to-date as of last Friday, meaning that if the current trend continues, the number of murders for the year in the city would be the lowest since such statistics first were recorded, as such, in 1963.
"New York City continues to be the safest big city in America, and one of the safest of any size, with significantly less crime per capita ... than even small cities," the department said.