May 24, 2012
The pressure on the New York Police Department to reform its stop-and-frisk program is mounting, led by the New York Civil Liberties Union and other advocates and now the New York Times.
As the ACLU has argued and these editorials reflect, NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program is not only deeply disturbing, it’s also ineffective. In 2003 the NYPD stopped 266 New Yorkers for every gun recovered. In 2011, the Department only recovered one gun for every 879 stops.
In fact, of the 685,724 times the NYPD stopped and interrogated individuals last year, nine out of 10 of them were neither arrested nor ticketed. This means that last year over 600,000 innocent New Yorkers were stopped by police officers as they went about their daily business, interrogated and more often than not frisked in front of their neighbors, and then sent on their way without so much as an apology for having been subjected to this stressful, humiliating experience. Worse still, Blacks and Latinos were far more likely to be stopped than whites (they made up 87 percent of the stops) even though they were less likely to be carrying a weapon.
That’s an awful lot of liberty to give up for a program that doesn’t even make us safer.
States the Times, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly “seems to believe that tinkering at the margins will cure the program’s constitutional flaws. It will not.” Rather, the editorial argues, NYPD officials should put an end to the vague and unlawful criteria used by officers to justify the stops. A “furtive movement,” for instance, or simply being in a “high crime area,” should not be enough to make someone a suspect.
The NYPD should stop violating the rights of hundreds of thousands of people every year and instead turn its attention to fair and effective policing that actually makes us all safer. In other words, it’s time for real reform of the stop-and-frisk program.