Flawed Report Glosses Over Racial Disparities in NYPD's Stop-and-Frisk Practices

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
November 20, 2007 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – A study commissioned by the New York Police Department on racial disparities in the department’s stop-and-frisk practices does nothing to ease concerns about possible racial profiling of New Yorkers, and amplifies the need for an independent analysis of the NYPD’s tactics.

Rather than embrace transparency, the department hired the Rand Corporation to study data that have not been shared adequately with the public or the New York City Council, despite months of requests. Last week, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court challenging the NYPD’s refusal to make public an electronic database detailing police stops of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, most of whom were black and Latino. Without access to the electronic database, it is impossible for an independent party to conduct a meaningful analysis of the data.

“This report does nothing to change the number of law-abiding New Yorkers who were stopped or frisked by the police last year,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “No matter how much the statistics are massaged, that fact still remains that in 2006, more than half a million New Yorkers were stopped and frisked by police, about 90 percent of those people were engaged in no unlawful activity, and 86 percent of those people were black or Latino.”

The 80 page report appears to distort the data, and often attempts to justify negative outcomes based on hypothesis and conjecture.

“It’s clear by their own language that the report’s authors are trying to explain away the racial disparities that arise over and over again,” Lieberman said. “This has all the trappings of a whitewash.”

Just one example of this is the report’s conclusion on page 40 that force was more likely to be used against black suspects than against other racial groups. It then attempts to muddy this conclusion by questioning whether black suspects are more likely to attempt to resist or flee without presenting a shred of data to support that idea.

“This report is scandalous,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “The black community continues to bear the brunt of police stops, blacks continue to be singled out for stops that don’t ever result in an arrest and the police department continues its efforts to justify these practices. Now more than ever, an independent review of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk procedures is necessary.”

In July, the NYCLU served the NYPD with a formal legal request to turn over the database under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. The department rejected the request at the end of August and denied the NYCLU’s administrative appeal on October 15.

The NYCLU requested the information to allow for an independent analysis of the department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which have been the subject of enormous controversy since the 1999 shooting death of Amadou Diallo. The controversy was rekindled last February when the department, under pressure from the NYCLU, released printed reports revealing that more than half a million New Yorkers were stopped in 2006 alone.

In 2006, the NYPD completed stop-and-frisk maneuvers on 508,540 individuals. Of that number, 458,104 people – about 90 percent of all people stopped – were engaged in no unlawful activity whatsoever, as they were neither given a summons nor arrested. Nearly 86 percent of all persons stopped were black or Hispanic.

Statistics made available earlier this month for the first three quarters of 2007 appear to show the same trend. Between January 1, 2006 and September 30, 2007, police officers reported 867,617 stops. Though blacks represent far less of the New York City population than do whites, police stopped 453,042 blacks as compared to only 94,530 whites during the period. Similarly, though only 83,452 whites were stopped without being arrested, police stopped 402,943 blacks without making arrests.

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