The New York Police Department stopped and patted down more than 600,000 people in 2011; 84 percent of those stopped were blacks or Latinos. They stopped nearly three million people between 2004 through 2009. Blacks were nine times more likely than whites to be stopped. Nearly 90 percent of the people stopped were completely innocent of any wrongdoing.
Professor Jeffrey Fagan, after an exhaustive analysis of stops over the six-year period, found that nearly 150,000 stops lacked any legal justification. The legality of an additional 544,252 stops lacked sufficiently detailed information to determine their legality. Fagan is Professor of Law and Public Health at Columbia University, a Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School and and a Fellow at the Straus Institute at New York University School of Law.
Officers were 14 percent more likely use force – such as throwing people on the ground or against a wall, drawing a weapon and/or pointing a weapon at the person stopped, and using manual force, a baton, handcuffs, or pepper spray during the stop – in stops of blacks compared to whites, and 9.3 percent more likely in stops of Latinos. Blacks and Latinos were more likely to be arrested rather than issued a summons when compared to whites who are accused of the same crimes.
Nicholas K. Peart, a black student at Borough of Manhattan Community College, described in the New York Times being stopped by police on four different occasions when he had done nothing wrong. He described the most recent incident as follows:
Last May , I was outside my apartment building on my way to the store when two police officers jumped out of an unmarked car and told me to stop and put my hands up against the wall. I complied. Without my permission, they removed my cellphone from my hand, and one of the officers reached into my pockets, and removed my wallet and keys. He looked through my wallet, then handcuffed me. The officers wanted to know if I had just come out of a particular building. No, I told them, I lived next door.
One of the officers asked which of the keys they had removed from my pocket opened my apartment door. Then he entered my building and tried to get into my apartment with my key. My 18-year-old sister was inside with two of our younger siblings; later she told me she had no idea why the police were trying to get into our apartment and was terrified. She tried to call me, but because they had confiscated my phone, I couldn’t answer.
Meanwhile, a white officer put me in the back of the police car. I was still handcuffed. The officer asked if I had any marijuana, and I said no. He removed and searched my shoes and patted down my socks. I asked why they were searching me, and he told me someone in my building complained that a person they believed fit my description had been ringing their bell. After the other officer returned from inside my apartment building, they opened the door to the police car, told me to get out, removed the handcuffs and simply drove off. I was deeply shaken.
The New York Police Department gains very little from alienating the black community with its relentless stop and frisk practices. During the six-year period studied by Professor Fagan, the police found guns, knives and other weapons in less than one percent of all stops. They found weapons or other contraband, such as drugs and stolen property, in only 1.75 percent of all stops.
This lawlessness is being challenged in a lawsuit, Floyd v. City of New York, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the law firms of Beldock, Levine & Hoffman and Covington & Burling. It is a class action lawsuit charging the New York Police Department with engaging in racial profiling and illegal stops-and-frisks brought on behalf of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have been stopped on the way to work, in front of their house or just walking down the street, without any cause and primarily because of their race.