Is Police Pat Down Search for Weapons Based on Specific Description of the Suspect Permissible ?
In People v. Salaman (71 NY2d 869, 870 ) the Court of Appeals began its analysis of whether a frisk of an individual based upon an anonymous tip would provide a "sufficient predicate for an officer's interference with defendant," and held that, "any inquiry into the propriety of police conduct must weigh the degree of intrusion it entails against the precipitating and attending circumstances [citing People v. De Bour, supra], and where the officer is justified in believing that the suspect is armed, a frisk for weapons is permissible [citing Terry v. Ohio, supra])."
The police in Salaman received a report of "a black male with a gun at South Fifth Avenue and West Third Street in the City of Mount Vernon wearing a long beige overcoat and a maroon sweatshirt with a hood on it." (Id.)
The officer found 25 people at the location specified but only the defendant matched the description given. the officer approached the individual, "ordered him to put his hands on the hood of the car and conducted a pat down of defendant's outer clothing" where he found a gun. (Id.)
Looking at the precipitating and attendant circumstances, the Court found that the frisk was justified as a matter of law because the officer's "independent observations corroborated the information received, both as to the specific description of the suspect and as to the exact location where he could be found" and because the officer "approached defendant without any weapon drawn and conducted only a pat down of defendant's outer clothing." (Id.)