Stops and Frisks
We have twice focused on the outrage of New York City's increasing numbers of race-based stops and frisks of innocent New York City's residents.
In January of 2009, we alerted our readers to the horrifying reality of the racially discriminatory stop and frisk activity, and we highlighted the fact that NYPD officers whose misconduct is substantiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCR) are very rarely subject to discipline.
The statistics will not be surprising to people of color who live in New York City, but all of us should be alarmed to see that our suspicions about law enforcement behavior and our extrapolations from personal experiences are in fact supported by the evidence. After analyzing over 1.6 million stops in New York City from 2005 to 2008, the CCR shows us that 80% of those stops are people of color, despite the fact that people of color represent only 53% of the New York City population. In addition, only 10% of stops are of white New Yorkers, though white New Yorkers are 44% of the New York City population. The disparity speaks for itself and helps explain why views of law enforcement personnel are very different in communities of color than they are in other communities.
In May of 2009, we returned to the stop and frisk topic when reports emerged that stop and frisk activity was increasing. We found that police find guns, drugs, or stolen property on whites about twice as often as they did on Black suspects. We found that stops of whites amounted to only 2.6 percent of the white population. By contrast, stops of Blacks, represented 21.1 percent of the entire black population. We learned that residents of Brownsville's 73rd Precinct and Harlem's 28th Precinct had a 30 to 36 percent chance of being stopped and questioned by police in 2006, while citywide, the average was about 6 percent. We also learned that though no summons is issued and no arrest is made, personal information is collected and retained regarding the person who was stopped. Since the stops occur only in non-white communities, this process amounts to a catalogue of personal details on the non-white population of our city with the target group skewing younger than the city as a whole. The outrage of the stops has been amplified and exacerbated by the scandal of the information collection.
The latest outrage is the primary reason cited by the NYPD for their stops of persons of color in our city. With persons of color nine times more likely to be stopped by the NYPD than white New Yorkers, the latest information reveals that nearly all of the stops of persons of color in New York City have been explained by the NYPD as resulting from the victim of the stop behaving in a stealthy manner.
Of the reasons listed by the police for conducting the stops, one of those least commonly cited was the claim that the person fit the description of a suspect. The most common reason listed by the police was a category known as “furtive movements.”
The "fit the description" excuse had been tossed around for years to excuse the racism of the NYPD, but the truth is now available to us.
With the truth available, we must hold the NYPD and the Mayor accountable. In 2010, the level of racism that he has supported within his own law enforcement entities is beyond unacceptable. If the Mayor will not denounce the racist policies of his police department and install new leadership at the NYPD, the Mayor must be forced to resign.