Analysis Finds Racial Disparities, Ineffectiveness in NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Program; Links Tactic to Soaring Marijuana Arrest Rate

Analysis Finds Racial Disparities, Ineffectiveness in NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Program; Links Tactic to Soaring Marijuana Arrest Rate

NEW YORK, NY — The New York Civil Liberties Union released an analysis of the NYPD’s 2012 stop-and-frisk data Wednesday, showing that the stop-and-frisk program’s stark racial disparities and ineffectiveness in recovering illegal guns continued last year despite a decline in the overall number of stops.

The analysis includes new information on how the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program contributes to the city’s soaring arrest rates for marijuana possession.

“Despite the welcome decline in the overall number of stops, the NYPD last year still subjected hundreds of thousands of innocent people to humiliating, intimidating and unjustified stop-and-frisk encounters,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “With a 90-percent failure rate, the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program remains a tremendous waste of resources, sows mistrust between police and the communities of color and routinely violates fundamental rights. The city’s next mayor must make a clean break from the Bloomberg administration’s ineffective and abusive stop-and-frisk regime.”

Last year, the NYPD stopped and interrogated people 532,911 times, a 448-percent increase in street stops since 2002 – when police recorded 97,296 stops during Mayor Bloomberg’s first year in office.

Nine out of 10 of people stopped were innocent, meaning they were neither arrested nor ticketed. About 87 percent were black or Latino. White people accounted for only about 10 percent of stops.

The NYCLU analyzed the NYPD’s full 2012 computerized stop-and-frisk database, which contains detailed information not included in the quarterly stop-and-frisk reports the Police Department provides the City Council. The analysis examines multiple aspects of the 2012 stop-and-frisk data, including stops, frisks, use of force, reason for stop and recovery of weapons. The analysis provides detailed information at a precinct level and a close examination of race-related aspects of stop-and-frisk.

The NYCLU’s analysis reveals that:

  • The 532,911 stops in 2012 (a 22-percent decrease from 2011) were spread unevenly amongst the city’s 76 police precincts, with the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn (East New York) leading the city with 24,408 stops and, excluding the Central Park Precinct, the 17th Precinct in Manhattan (Kips Bay) having the fewest stops at 1,331.
  • In 71 out of 76 precincts, black and Latino people accounted for more than 50 percent of stops, and in 36 precincts they accounted for more than 90 percent of stops. In the 10 precincts with the lowest black and Latino populations (such as the 6th Precinct in Greenwich Village), blacks and Latinos accounted for more than 70 percent of stops in six of those precincts.
  • Young black and Latino men were the targets of a hugely disproportionate number of stops. Though they account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 40.6 percent of stops in 2012. The number of stops of young black men neared the entire city population of young black men (133,119 as compared to 158,406). More than 90 percent of young black and Latino men stopped were innocent.
  • Though frisks can be legally conducted only when an officer reasonably suspects the person has a weapon that might endanger officer safety, 55.8 percent of those stopped in 2012 were frisked. Of those frisked, a weapon was found only 2 percent of the time.
  • Frisks varied enormously by precinct, with officers in the 110th Precinct in Queens frisking people 81.4 percent of the time, as compared to a low of 27.3 percent in the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
  • Black and Latino New Yorkers were more likely to be frisked than whites and were less likely to be found with a weapon.
  • In 2012 as compared to 2003, the earliest year that a gun recovery figure is available, the NYPD conducted 372,060 more stops but recovered only 96 more guns. That amounts to an additional recovery rate of 0.02 percent.
  • Of the 473,644 stops of innocent people in 2012, 53.7 percent were frisked. The 75th Precinct led the city in stops of innocent people with 22,776 such stops, excluding the Central Park Precinct, the 17th Precinct had the fewest with 1,181.
  • More than 26,000 people were stopped for alleged marijuana possession. More people were arrested for marijuana-possession offenses than for any other type of offense. Despite the NYPD’s repeated claim that its stop-and-frisk program is valuable because it targets guns, the facts show it is much more a marijuana arrest program. In 2012 the NYPD recovered 729 guns through the stop-and-frisk; by contrast, more than 5,000 people were arrested last year under the program for marijuana-possession offenses.

“The NYPD defends its abusive stop-and-frisk program as the reason why New York City’s streets are safe. But last year stops went down 22 percent and homicide was at an all time low. This gives the lie to the NYPD’s repeated claims that more and more stops are needed to save lives,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn.

The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices have been on trial over the past two months in Floyd v. City of New York – a federal class-action lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging the constitutionality of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices.

The remedy phase of the trial, which concluded Monday, involved Ligon v. City of New York, a lawsuit filed by the NYCLU, The Bronx Defenders, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP challenging the NYPD’s enforcement of Operation Clean Halls – a citywide program within the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk regime that allows police officers to patrol in and around certain private apartment buildings.

The NYCLU sued the NYPD in 2007 for access to the Police Department’s electronic stop-and-frisk database. In 2008, a State Supreme Court judge ordered the NYPD to turn over the database. Prior to that, the NYPD withheld detailed information of its stop-and-frisk program.

The NYCLU has also been working with its coalition partners in Communities United for Police Reform and leaders in the City Council for passage of the Community Safety Act, a landmark police reform package designed to help end discriminatory policing and bring real accountability to the NYPD by creating an Inspector General over the NYPD and creating a strong ban on profiling.

“The evidence remains clear: The NYPD’s stop, question & frisk policy has a disparate impact on young men of color – the overwhelming majority of whom have done nothing wrong,” said City Councilman Brad Lander. “Even in Park Slope, where 67 percent of the population is white, 84.8 percent of the stops in 2012 were of black and Latino people. So this is not a matter of simply going where the crime is. That’s why we must pass Intro 800-A, to strengthen New York City’s prohibition on discriminatory profiling by establishing a thoughtfully-tailored private right of action. We all want a safe city, but we can’t make our city truly safe by profiling our neighbors.”

“The NYPD’s policy towards stop, question and frisk is still inordinately targeting young men of color and harassing an overwhelming majority of innocent New Yorkers,” said City Councilman Jumaane Williams. “This practice has been utterly divisive and corrosive to the essential relationship between historically disenfranchised communities and the police charged with protecting them. I am confident that with the passage of the Community Safety Act, including an enforceable ban on bias-based profiling and an inspector general over the NYPD, we can bring about better policing and safer streets for all.”