Quinn outlines changes to stop-and-frisk, while crediting it with helping to reduce crime

Christine Quinn in her City Hall offices. (Dana Rubinstein)
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The Wall Street Journal reported on changes to the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn outlined in a letter to the department yesterday. 

In the letter, Quinn notes the number of crimes, and specifically murders, have been greatly reduced in New York "over the past decade." Then she wrote, "We understand the vast majority of the lives saved were men of color and that part of the NYPD's policing strategy that led to this declined is based on stop, question and frisk."

Politically, that line is important because it draws a distinction between Quinn and another outspoken critic of the stop-and-frisk policy she'll likely face in the mayor's race, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

Stringer has raised questions not just about whether the program is unfair, but whether it is effective in the first place: In September, Stringer said 93 percent of the stops do not result in arrests, "which raises serious questions about the program's effectiveness in preventing crime."

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Quinn is effectively advocating a retooling of stop-and-frisk without questioning its existence. That's consistent with her position in the past, as articulated in a 2010 interview she did with Times columnist Bob Herbert, when recognized the usefulness of it while question whether the NYPD should keep on file the names of people who were stopped-and-frisked but not charged. At the time, Quinn said, "I have concerns that we have become overly aggressive in our use of it."

Other elected officials have criticized the stop-and-frisk policy, saying it infringes on the civil rights of black and Latino men. Police commisioner Ray Kelly and the department respond by saying that the policy saves lives.

Experts, including one Kelly likes to quote, suggest that the correlation between the aggressiveness with which the strategy is executed and crime rates isn't clear.