Record Number of Innocent New Yorkers Stopped, Interrogated by NYPD During First Half of Year

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
August 14, 2009 12:00 am

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The NYPD stopped and interrogated more innocent people during the first six months of 2009 than during any six-month period since the Department began collecting data on its troubling stop-and-frisk program. Police made more than 273,000 stops of completely innocent New Yorkers — the overwhelming majority of whom were black and Latino. Though these innocent people did nothing wrong, their names and home addresses are now stored in an NYPD database.

“These aren’t statistics — these are innocent New Yorkers who have had their dignity man-handled by the very people who are sworn to protect and serve them,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Hundreds of thousands of our neighbors who have done absolutely nothing wrong have been humiliated in front of their parents, children, friends and neighbors. This stunning abuse of power must end. It is not a crime to walk down the street in New York City, yet every day innocent black and brown New Yorkers are turned into suspects for doing just that.”

According to an NYPD report obtained and analyzed by the NYCLU this week, police stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 140,552 times between April and June. Nearly nine out of 10 of these stops resulted in no charges or citations. This record number of stops fell disproportionately on the city’s communities of color — 74,283 of those stopped were black and 44,296 were Latino, while only 13,906 were white.

The Department made another 171,094 stops between January and March. Overall, this record number of stops represents a 15 percent increase from the 270,937 stops conducted during the first six months of 2008. If stops continue at this pace, the NYPD will conduct a record 610,000 stops in 2009. In 2008, the current record, police stopped New Yorkers 531,159 times.

Over the past five-and-a-half years, New Yorkers have been subjected to the practice more than 2.5 million times — a rate of 1,260 every day. The Department is then recording the name and home address of every person stopped.

“The NYPD is, in effect, building a massive database of black and brown New Yorkers,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “Innocent New Yorkers who are the victims of unjustified police stops should not suffer the further harm of having their personal information kept in an NYPD database, which simply makes them targets for future investigations.”

In the summer of 2007, the NYCLU served the NYPD with a formal legal request to turn over the complete stop-and-frisk database under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. The Department resisted transparency and so, in November 2007, the NYCLU filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging the NYPD. In May of 2008, the NYCLU won that case and received the database in October, 2008. The NYCLU is currently analyzing that database and will publish its findings this year.

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 NYCLU’s concerns about excessive numbers of stops are supported by the RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Department in 2007. That report estimated that, “[e]ven with the most liberal assumptions,” one would expect the NYPD to have “roughly 250,000 to 330,000 stops” each year. Even when measured against the most permissive of standards, the NYPD is on its way to conducting 300,000 more stops than would be expected.

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