The NYPD recently re-released citywide Stop and Frisk data from 2011 that offer hard evidence for what many opponents of the controversial policy have claimed: Almost 90 percent of all people stopped and frisked citywide in 2011 were minorities. The statistics were re-released just in time for the Federal Court trial next month that will determine the legality of this police practice.
The statistics, which were also divided by precinct, showed that minorities were even more likely to be stopped in wealthier areas of Manhattan like the Upper West Side. In the 20th precinct, for instance, 77 percent of stops were minorities, even though only 21 percent of Upper West Side residents are minorities. This disparity has long angered local community leaders.
“Stop and frisk is a wildly discriminatory practice,” said Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal. “It only serves to make those who are stopped mistrust law enforcement. I fail to see how the city can even justify this.”
According to Robert Gangi, the director of PROP, the Police Reform Organization Project, people on the street can only be stopped if they look suspicious, or are committing a crime. In addition, police can also stop an individual if they fit the description of a known criminal in the area. Gangi said that although this practice is legal, sometimes police officers go over the top.
“There’s a lot of pressure for police to meet their quotas and in a desperate effort to do so, they will engage in unwarranted or illegal stops,” Gangi said.
According to NYPD statistics, however, not only did stop-and-frisks increase steadily from over 540,000 in 2008 to almost 686,000 in 2011, but crime has also steadily decreased. Murders are down 43 percent, and this year, on Nov. 26, not a single person was reported stabbed, shot or slashed, according to the NYPD.
Nick Viest, the chair of the 19th precinct community council on the Upper East Side, said that he supports the NYPD stop-and-frisk policies.
“From what I’ve witnessed, they’ve handled these things very professionally and appropriately,” Viest said. “When you look at these statistics at face value, people get concerned, but they are responding to specific descriptions. They are doing the job necessary to keep the community safe.”
As far as stopping those who fit a certain description, Victor Goode, a professor at the CUNY School of Law, said that he doesn’t quite buy that explanation.
“Let’s say there’s a report of purse-snatching by a young African-American male, 14 to 16 years old,” Goode said. “When the suspect is characterized as broadly as that, it gives them an excuse to stop almost anyone.”
Next month, Darius Charney, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and his colleagues, will try to challenge the constitutionality of NYPD stop-and-frisk practices like these. However, he did stress that stop-and-frisk is not an illegal police tactic in and of itself.
“Their argument that black and Latino people are more likely to commit crimes is not the best, because these are law-abiding folks that are being stopped,” Charney said. “Are you saying that blacks and Latinos are more likely to look suspicious?”
The trial, “Floyd vs. The City of New York,” a lawsuit, is set to begin on March 11.
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