Ten years after the shooting of Amadou Diallo and subsequent public outcry against racial profiling, the New York Police Department continues to disproportionately target blacks and Latinos.
According to the New York Civil Liberties Union and Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) report, the NYPD stopped 543,982 individuals in 2008, more than 80 percent of whom were black or Latino.
Whites, who make up 44 percent of the city’s population, made up only 10 percent of those stopped and questioned.
In the last year of the Mayor Rudolph Giuliani administration, police stopped 86,705 individuals in 2001. The 2008 total represents a 71,886-stop increase from the 2007 total of 472,096 stops and is 15 percent higher than the 2005 to 2007 average of 459,000 stops per year.
The report notes the disparity in frisking after stops: Between 2005 and June 2008, only 8 percent of whites stopped were also frisked, while 85 percent of blacks and Latinos who were stopped were also frisked.
The number of stops is on the rise despite the police’s own data that show that almost 90 percent of those stopped over the past three years were never charged with a crime. Only 2 percent of stops resulted in recovery of weapons or contraband. Furthermore, according to the CCR, “Police stops-and-frisks without reasonable suspicion violate the Fourth Amendment, and racial profiling is a violation of fundamental rights and protections of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
While the NYPD continues to deny allegations of profiling based on race, City Council member Charles Barron (D-East New York) told The Indypendent that the data “validates what activists have been saying now for decades: the police are out of control. This report is an important tool to make the case that the police … freely profile, harass and brutalize people. This is real, its not race-baiting that activists are making up.”
TEN YEARS AFTER THE DIALLO KILLING
The Feb. 4, 1999, shooting of Diallo — an unarmed West African immigrant who was killed outside his Bronx home in a barrage of 41 bullets fired by four undercover police officers — galvanized a wave of protests against police brutality of the Giuliani administration. More than 1,700 people, including many of the city’s elected black and Latino officials, were arrested for engaging in acts of civil disobedience.
A subsequent federal investigation concluded the NYPD’s Street Crimes Unit engaged in racial profiling. Public pressure forced the city to officially ban the practice. As part of a case filed by the CCR in response to the Diallo killing, the NYPD was required to keep stop-and-frisk data.
A new lawsuit, Floyd v. The City of New York, was filed in January 2008, and in September a federal judge ordered the police to release all of the past 10 years worth of stop-and-frisk data.
“The vast majority of stops are police initiated,” said CCR Staff Attorney Darius Charney. “Police are in certain neighborhoods and on their own initiative they decide to stop someone.” Charney also said that police data shows the least common reason for an NYPD stop was encountering an individual who fit a description of a suspect.
While Charney states that he doesn’t “want to assume bad intentions on the part of the police,” he argues that, “whatever the motivation, profiling is simply not an effective crime fighting strategy. And its continued use is building a lot of distrust in between police and community.”
Barron believes that the latest stop-and-frisk revelations highlight Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s failings as a city leader.
“Bloomberg has a protectionist policy,” Barron said. “It allows his commissioner to violate the law without reprimanding him or changing policies. The police have set up ‘impact zones’ and Bloomberg has allowed for police containment and harassment instead of job creation or economic development. He chooses to build more prisons and increase police presence while denying economic job creation — 40 to 50 percent of black men in New York City are unemployed.”
The CCR report recommends the NYPD enforce existing reporting requirements and that the city expand the power and the scope of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which currently investigates complaints of police misconduct, but has no enforcement powers.
For the full CCR report, see ccrjustice.org/criminal-justiceand-mass-incarceration.