by Jeremy Leaming
The New York City Police Department’s numbers on its stop-and-frisk policy tell a damning story of city authorities unconcerned about civil liberties or racial profiling, and how its policy adversely affects numerous communities.
But a new report adds to the bleakness of the story. That report from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) fills out the already tawdry tale with the “human stories behind the staggering statistics and sheds new light on the breadth of impact this policy is having on individuals and groups, in neighborhoods, and citywide.”
The statistics, which CCR helped disclose, reveal that in 2011, NYPD officers stopped more than 680,000 people, 84 percent of them were black or Latino. Moreover, 88 percent of the stops produced no arrests.
A Pace University law professor told The New York Times that people “are starting to wonder: ‘What’s really going on here? Is this a racial policy?”
The numbers say it most certainly is. Yet the city’s long-serving mayor is adamant that the policy saves lives, prevents crimes. But Michael Bloomberg’s rhetoric remains just that, especially when the vast majority of stop-and-frisks produce no arrests.
And in May, U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin permitted a class-action lawsuit against the city’s frisking policy, saying she was seriously concerned about officials’ “troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental rights.”
Scheindlin also noted that the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment bars government, including the NYPD, from conducting unreasonable “searches and seizures.” Moreover, she pointed to the Constitution’s 14th Amendment barring government officials from depriving individuals of liberty, including their equal protection rights.
The NYPD seems to have trouble understanding or working within constitutional parameters. The judge noted that between 2004 and 2009 the NYPD stopped and frisked a lot of people, 50 percent of them black, 30 percent Latino.
From a series of interviews of people who have been stopped and frisked in the city, the CCR report reveals a policy targeting communities of color, the homeless, low-income people, among others.