The NYCLU conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the policies of each police department. Through our interaction, we have found that the Troy Police Department:
- Stated in its policy on the use of deadly force that deadly force is only permissible when authorized by state law and that officers are responsible for knowing what that law says, but the policy did not go further in discussing the actual requirements or limitations of that state law.
- Encouraged officers not to use a Taser—a less lethal force option—when an officer is clearly justified in using deadly force instead.
- Conflated “frisks” and “searches” in its use of force training materials, and included instructions for what an officer should do when searching someone in a section on how to properly conduct a frisk. Frisks and searches are distinct legal terms, and frisks are supposed to be more limited. The training also conflated the legal standards for a frisk with the less stringent standard that applies to stops.
- Did not provide demographic information on more than 90% of its use of force reports from 2012-2014. Meanwhile, the Department provided data showing that black people were disproportionately arrested for low-level offenses, making up 69% of arrests for low-level marijuana offenses despite accounting for only 15% of the city’s population.
Policy Spotlight: Stop and Frisk
New York and federal law on police stops and field interviews is complex, so it is essential for police departments to have policies in place that provide accurate and lawful standards governing how officers should perform them. These types of encounters are among the most common interactions between police and members of the public. They are also some of the least transparency and most susceptible to abuse. The potential for abuse is heightened when department training documents provide incomplete legal standards and conflate legally distinct terms. By law, officers can only frisk a person if they have reason to believe that the person has a weapon that poses a threat to the officer’s safety. But the Troy Police Department’s training materials on frisks only discuss the lower standard that officers must meet for conducting a stop, which is never sufficient to justify a frisk by itself. And while, legally, officers can only reach into pockets during a frisk if they feel a weapon, the Troy Police Department’s training materials repeatedly describe an officer’s actions during a frisk as a “search” and instruct the officers to look into a person’s pockets without noting the actual legal limitations on doing so. The Troy Department needs to improve its training materials on frisks and incorporate accurate and lawful standards for stops and field interviews into its policies.
You can learn more about the policies by clicking the cards below.
Documents received by April 2016