Noel Gallo was sworn into office Monday. He wasted no time in announcing that he supports police strategies which include "stop and frisk," in a city in which more than 500 people were shot last year. "The reality is I am trying to save lives. I don't want to make excuses why a child or teenager was shot and killed over the weekend or overnight," he said.
Gallo says he wants his police to have all of the tools that are necessary to stop the escalating crime rate. He says he also favors a youth curfew which is in itself controversial. Perhaps more hotly debated though, is the practice of stop and frisk. It has become a controversial tactic in many cities. Last year, when San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee suggested looking at it as a means of getting guns off the street, angry demonstrators rallied outside City Hall.
Police do have the authority to stop and frisk someone if they have real suspicions that the person is breaking the law or if he's armed and dangerous, but Michael Risher of the ACLU argues that officers often take that practice a step further. "They involve stopping people on the street for no other reason than the policeman maybe has a hunch or because of that person's age or race, or demographic. That's wrong," he said.
Stop and frisk was an important component of former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton's strategy which succeeded in reducing crime in the 1990s. Drug-related murders plummeted by as much as 90 percent.
UC Berkeley law professor Franklin Zimring authored a book on Bratton's successful crime reduction program. He says it included aggressive policing. "Number of officially recorded stop and frisk events in New York City in one year is 700,000. These are almost all male. They are almost all young men of color," he explained.
Just Tuesday, a New York judge ruled that the NYPD's practice of stopping people suspect of trespassing outside private residential building is unconstitutional. That is one of the more significant federal rulings on the legality of the police department's use of the stop and frisk tactic.