New Stop-and-Frisk Data: NYPD's Controversial Policing Tactic is On The Rise And Still Racist

Today, the New York Civil Liberties Union released new stop-and-frisk data for 2011.  According to the report, officers conducted more than 685,000 stops last year -- a 14 percent increase since 2010. The data once again found that the stop-and-frisks are racially motivated, with black and Latino New Yorkers making up 87 percent of those stopped. Once stopped, blacks and Latinos were also more likely to be frisked. 

Police justify the use of stop-and-frisk as a life-saving tool to get guns off the streets. But the data repeatedly shows that a stop-and-frisk resulting in a gun confiscation is not just unlikely, but extremely rare: 55.7 percent of stops result in frisks, and less than two  percent of them find a gun. 

What's more, while the number of stop-and-frisks has skyrocketed over recent years, the number of guns recovered has stayed relatively stable. According to the NYCLU report,

In 2011 as compared to 2003 (the earliest year a gun recovery figure is available), the NYPD conducted 524,873 more stops but recovered only 176 more guns. This amounts to an additional recovery rate of three one-hundredths of one percent.

 At 41 percent of all stops, the largest demographic for stop-and-frisk is Black and Latino youths, even though they make up only about four percent of the New York City population. And as the NYCLU pointed out: 

The NYPD often seeks to justify the high percentage of stops of black and Latino New Yorkers by contending that those high percentages merely reflect the concentration of stop-and-frisk activity in high-crime precincts that are black and Latino. While there are many responses to this contention that are beyond the scope of this report, the 2011 data are striking in what they reveal about the large percentages of blacks and Latinos being stopped in precincts that have substantial percentages of white residents.For instance, the population of the 17th Precinct, which covers the East Side of Manhattan, has the lowest percentage of  black and Latino residents in the city at 7.8 percent, yet 71.4 percent of  those stopped in the precinct were black or Latino 

New Yorkers of color also appear to bear the burden for unwarranted stops. According to the NYCLU data, 53.1 percent of those who were stopped and engaging in no unlawful behavior (not issued a summons or arrested) were black, and 33.7 percent of the innocent were Latino. Just 9.2 percent were white.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio recently spoke out in criticism of stop-and-frisk, and is calling on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to order the NYPD to dramatically reduce stop-and-frisk from what he called "a fatal dose." DeBlasio said stop-and-frisk is "being used in many instances in arbitrary and counter-productive fashion.” He also recently suggested using Compstat - the NYPD's accountability process/management philosophy -- to investigate the tactic. "If you re-programmed with the goal of eliminating unnecessary stops, Compstat is the perfect tool," he said

As it works now, Compstat is a major driving force behind stop-and-frisk. Rather than use careful judgement to conduct stops, some officers say they are pressured to meet stop-and-frisk quotas.

Officers say the pressure to meet quotas is trickled down from higher-ups who must show that their officers are active on the ground, while, at the same time, decreasing serious (or felony) crimes. Quotas are the result of the Giuliani-era "Broken Windows" policing theory that making high numbers of visible, street-level busts will deter more serious crime. Compstat puts the theory into practice by tracking serious crimes and nearly all police activity by precinct.  It has become a numbers game officers are forced to play.  

At a recent Police Reform Organizing Project panel, current and former NYPD officers explained how they have experienced this numbers game first-hand. They attested to witnessing officers fudging the data by under-reporting felonies, and at the same time, making bad, low-level arrests and stops. 

“Quotas exist,” John Eterno, a former NYPD captain said at the panel,“Anyone who tells you any different is a liar. They occur and right now they are stringent about it, particularly with the young cops.”

As Capital New York reported:

Eterno had some data of his own, saying his research showed that 15 percent of police officers routinely violate the constitution. (He said later that the figure came from research for a book he co-wrote where he gave hypothetical scenarios to officers to see what they would consider legal.)

“If we have 700,000 stop-and-frisks in New York City, this 15 percent translates into 100,000 unconstitutional stops taking place,” he said, “This is unconscionable. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at May 9, 2012, 1:12pm

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018
Today's Top Stories