I was reading an article about a news conference that was scheduled to take place yesterday at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The Stonewall was the site of the 1969 riots that propelled the gay rights movement forward. This news conference was held by LGBT groups, who are joining with the NAACP, to call for an end to the NYC “stop-and-frisk” tactic used by police officers.
As Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in an interview, “There was no rational reason to raid the Stonewall Inn in 1969, and there is no rational reason to stop black and Latino men in 2012 and frisk them simply for being who they are.”
To understand why there needs to be an end to stop-and-frisk, this report from the New York Civil Liberties Union is a must read. I’m going to pull out some key statistics from the report (which covers the year 2011) to make it clear why I am posting this. They should give anyone pause.
One of the main reasons given for stop-and-frisk is to recover weapons. However, the numbers show that the link between stops and weapons found is almost non-existent. In 2011 there were seven times as many stops made as in 2002, almost 700,000 in total. Yet the recovery rate of weapons increased by only three one-hundredths of one percent. Weapons are found in only 1.9 percent of frisks.
Ninety percent of young black and Latino men stopped were innocent.
The number of stops of young black men exceeded the entire city population of young black men (168,126 as compared to 158,406).
In 2011 blacks made up 52.9 percent of stops, Latinos 33.7 percent, and whites only 9.3 percent.
High concentrations of black or Latino populations in some precincts cannot account for those statistics. As an example: “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.”
Quoting from the report: “Young black and Latino males were the targets of a hugely disproportionate number of stops in 2011. While black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for 41.6 percent of those stopped. By contrast, white males between the ages 14 and 24 make up 2 percent of the city’s population but accounted for 3.8 percent of stops.”
Not all stops result in a frisk. When blacks or Latinos were stopped they were frisked 57.5 percent of the time, compared to only 44.2 percent of the time for whites. More importantly, a weapon was found only 1.8 percent of the time when blacks or Latinos were frisked, but 3.8 percent of the time when whites were frisked.
These statistics, and the rest of the report, illustrate that racial profiling and racial bias strongly influence NYC police officers’ decisions in determining who to stop, and who to frisk once they are stopped. Blacks and Latinos are stopped and frisked at a massively disproportionate amount compared to their city populations and compared to the percentages actually engaged in criminal activity.
I’m not just pointing a finger at NYC here. These were relatively easy statistics for the NYCLU to collect and analyze. You can be sure that this sort of racial bias is showing up in police activities in cities all across the country. I had no idea just how bad it is though, and it’s important to get people to see just what is really going on.
As a side note, check out this article about a man who complained about being racially profiled with stop-and-frisk being put in jail overnight for no reason.