New York City police officers randomly stopped more than 600,000 citizens last year in their infamous “stop and frisk” campaign, which finds the department annually involved in civil liberties battles with activist organizations.
According to the official NYPD statistics, which they began releasing in 2002, 601,055 people were stopped and questioned by police in 2010, a 4.3 percent increase from 2009, when 575,304 people were stopped.
While this may not initially sound like a big deal—what’s the problem with police stopping criminals?—what makes these stops very problematic is to whom they’re happening, and how often they’re absolutely useless.
The fact is that the vast majority of these stop-and-frisk cases, some of which also involve the officers searching people’s things, are inflicted upon Black and Latino men. In fact, a full 86 percent of the people stopped last year—about 517,000—were both of color and male. Exacerbating that truth is that most of the time the people stopped aren’t doing anything wrong.
According to the NYPD’s own numbers, only seven percent of people arbitrarily stopped last year were arrested. Of the other 93 percent, only another seven percent were issued summonses for minor violations. That means that a staggering 86 percent of people were doing nothing wrong whatsoever—the police simply stopped them from going about their daily business because they thought they looked suspicious. And from what we know about the racial makeup of stop-and-frisk suspects, “looking suspicious” generally translates to being African-American or Latino.
Thankfully, former New York Gov. David Paterson stopped these stop-and-frisks from going even more overboard when he signed a law last year preventing police from storing the names of people stopped, regardless of whether they were charged with a crime, in a police database.
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