Stop-and-frisks by cops in the Staten Island precinct where Eric Garner was arrested and later died from an officer's apparent chokehold dropped by nearly 80 percent in the six months after the altercation, according to the latest data analyzed by Newsday.
The 120th Precinct, which has traditionally seen the most stop-and-frisks, recorded only 291 stops following Garner's death on July 17, 2014, through the end of 2014. From January through June, there were 1,375 stop-and-frisks, the data showed.
Law enforcement experts attributed the drop to cops using more discretion about whether to engage subjects in street encounters because of the furor surrounding Garner's death. NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis was not available to comment Thursday.
"Nobody wants to be the next court case, the next indictment," said Joseph Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former NYPD detective supervisor.
Since Commissioner William Bratton took over on Jan. 1, 2014, police stop-and-frisks continued a dramatic fall that began under the tenure of his predecessor, Ray Kelly.
For all of 2014, police recorded only 46,235 stops, compared with 191,588 in 2013, a drop of more than 75 percent, according to NYPD statistics. Bratton has stated that he thought Kelly relied too much on stop-and-frisk, which in 2011 hit a historic high of nearly 700,000, angering minority communities. Bratton also noted that the two-decade drop in citywide crime continued even with markedly fewer stops.
The statistics were provided by the NYPD to the City Council as required by law and obtained by Newsday. The data also showed that just over 80 percent of those stopped where black and Hispanic, slightly lower but close to the historic average of about 83 percent.
Garner died after he grappled with cops who suspected him of selling loose cigarettes and were trying to arrest him. Garner refused to submit to arrest and died from what the city medical examiner said was neck compression by a "choke hold," as well as chest compression while he was being restrained by cops. The medical examiner also noted that Garner, who was obese, suffered from asthma and heart disease, which contributed to his death.
A Staten Island grand jury refused to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner's death, which triggered widespread protests in the city and sparked a continuing debate about revamping the grand jury system. Lawyers for Pantaleo insist he didn't use a chokehold. Jonathan Moore, who represents Garner's family, didn't respond to requests for comment.
Police officials and law enforcement experts said the big drop in stop-and-frisks in the 120th Precinct wasn't surprising, given the outcry cops faced when Garner died.
"Discretionary [police] activity dropped away in Staten Island," said one high-ranking NYPD official, who didn't want to be named.