New York Minorities Frisked 9 Times as Often, Data Find


New York Minorities More Likely to Be Frisked

Blacks and Latinos were nine times as likely as whites to be stopped by the police in New York City in 2009, but, once stopped, were no more likely to be arrested.

The more than 575,000 stops of people in the city, a record number of what are known in police parlance as “stop and frisks,” yielded 762 guns.

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.”

Under Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, the New York Police Department’s use of such street stops has more than quintupled, fueling not only an intense debate about the effectiveness and propriety of the tactic, but also litigation intended to force the department to reveal more information about the encounters.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which got the data on stop and frisks after it first sued the city over the issue after the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo, said its analysis of the 2009 data showed again what it argued was the racially driven use of the tactic against minorities and its relatively modest achievements in fighting crime.

The center, a nonprofit civil and human rights organization financed by donors and foundations, and other critics of the tactic like to note that a gun buyback program conducted by the police at several Bronx churches one day in January yielded 1,186 guns.

Police officials, for their part, vigorously praise the stop-and-frisk policy as a cornerstone of their efforts to suppress crime. The stops led to 34,000 arrests and the seizing of more than 6,000 weapons other than guns, according to the center’s analysis.

The police officials argue that the widespread use of the tactic has forced criminals to keep their guns at home and allowed the department to bank thousands of names in a database for detectives to mine in fighting future crimes.

Besides better reporting, the surge in the number of stops, they said, is also a byproduct of flooding high-crime areas with more officers, a strategy for a force with a shrinking headcount.

“These are not unconstitutional,” Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said of the stops. “We are saving lives, and we are preventing crime.”

According to the analysis of the 2009 raw data by the Center for Constitutional Rights, nearly 490,000 blacks and Latinos were stopped by the police on the streets last year, compared with 53,000 whites.

But once stopped, the arrest rates were virtually the same. Whites were arrested in slightly more than 6 percent of the stops, blacks in slightly fewer than 6 percent. About 1.7 percent of whites who were stopped were found to have a weapon, while 1.1 percent of blacks were found with one.

Given that, some experts who have studied stop-and-frisk data over the last several years say that what prompts an officer’s suspicion for a stop, and the discretion used, are important.

In examining the stated reasons for the stops, as checked off by police officers on department forms, the center found that about 15 percent of the stops last year cited “fits a relevant description.” Officers can check off more than one reason, but in nearly half the stops, the category called “furtive movements” was cited. Nearly 30 percent of stops cited a category called “casing a victim or location”; nearly 19 percent cited a catchall category of “other.”

“These stats suggest that racial disparities in who gets stopped has more to do with officer bias and discretion than with crime rates, which is what the Police Department argues,” said Darius Charney, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Mr. Browne, the department spokesman, said stop-and-frisk data was “examined in great detail,” in 2007 by the RAND Corporation, “which found no racial profiling.” He said the stops mirrored crime — that while a large percentage of the stops involved blacks, an even larger percentage of violent crimes involved suspects described as black by their victims.

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Posted via web from Street_Visuals

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