NYCLU Alleges Racial Disparity in NYPD Stop and Frisk Program

The New York Civil Liberties Union released their analysis of every reported stop and frisk conducted by the New York Police Department. There were over 685,724 stop and frisk interactions in 2011, and the NYCLU says the numbers show a stark racial disparity in police behavior. Meanwhile, the NYPD claims the numbers show the policy is working as it should.

The NYCLU argues that young black and latino men accounted for a disproportionately large number of stops:

Though they account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops in 2011. The number of stops of young black men exceeded the entire city population of young black men (168,126 as compared to 158,406). Ninety percent of young black and Latino men stopped were innocent.

NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn explained that “In nearly every police precinct – black and white, high crime and low crime – black and Latino New Yorkers are stopped and frisked at a far greater rate than whites. Everyone wants to feel safe in their neighborhoods, but the abuse of stop-and-frisk is making communities of color across New York City fear the force that is supposed to protect them.”

But the NYPD is drawing a different picture with the data. The Police Department’s Chief Spokesman, Paul J. Browne, told The New York Times that the numbers show a prescriptive result. In 2003, the NYPD conducted 160,851 stops and recovered 604 guns. In contrast, the 2011 data shows there were over 600,000 stops, and only 780 guns seized. As The New York Times points out, this means that in 2011 the NYPD found one gun per every 879 stops, as opposed to one gun for every 266 stops in 2003.

So, according to Browne, criminals now leave their guns at home because they know they may be stopped by police.

This isn’t the first time the program has come under fire. In 2010 Professor Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia Law School conducted a study of police data from 2004 to 2009. The New York Times reported that the study found:

in more than 30 percent of stops, officers either lacked the kind of suspicion necessary to make a stop constitutional or did not include sufficient detail on police forms to determine if the stops were legally justified. The study also found that even accounting for crime patterns in the city’s various neighborhoods, officers stopped minorities at disproportionate rates.

Data on the stop and frisk program is available going back to 2003.


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