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NY Stop-and-search numbers soar

New York police stopped nearly 700,000 people on the street last year, up from more than 90,000 a decade ago. Nearly 87% were black or Hispanic, and about half were frisked and 10% were arrested.

A judge granted class-action status in May to a lawsuit, meaning thousands of people who have been stopped over the years could potentially join a complaint introduced by the Centre for Constitutional Rights on behalf of four black men.

In June, the New York Civil Liberties Union rolled out a "Stop and Frisk Watch" smartphone app that allows bystanders to record police stops and instantly alert others to where it is taking place.

US district judge Shira Scheindlin said there was "overwhelming evidence" that police have conducted thousands of unlawful stops based on flimsy justification such as "furtive movement".

She berated the New York Police Department (NYPD) for displaying "a deeply troubling apathy toward New Yorkers' most fundamental constitutional rights".

The next day, police commissioner Raymond Kelly announced changes to officer training and supervision, and the number of stops has since declined dramatically.

But the commissioner and mayor Michael Bloomberg fiercely defend aggressive policing they credit for transforming New York into one of the safest big cities in the US.

They say the stop-and-frisk programme has helped prevent thousands of deaths by taking guns off the street and deny allegations of racial profiling, saying more blacks and Hispanics are stopped because many minority neighbourhoods have the highest crime rates.

Mr Bloomberg said: "Nobody should ask Ray Kelly to apologise - he's not going to and neither am I. And I think it's fair to say that stop, question and frisk has been an essential part of the NYPD's work."

Other cities have adopted policies similar to New York's, provoking the same debate. Last year, officials in Philadelphia placed its "stop and frisk" programme under court supervision to settle a federal lawsuit alleging racial profiling. San Francisco mayor Ed Lee faced a backlash when he raised the possibility of adopting "stop and frisk" to get guns off the streets. Mr Lee announced last Tuesday that he was no longer considering it.

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