New NYCLU Reports Reveal Historic Failure and Bias of Bloomberg Administration’s Signature Public Safety Program

August 20, 2014 —  The New York Civil Liberties Union today released an analysis of new NYPD data that provides the first detailed picture of the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program throughout the totality of the Bloomberg administration, including new insights on the program’s stark racial disparities and its ineffectiveness in recovering illegal firearms. The NYCLU also released an analysis of 2013 stop-and-frisk data which shows the program last year had a gun recovery rate of only .02 percent and still overwhelmingly targeted young black and Latino men.

“We must learn from the lessons of the stop-and-frisk era,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “We all want to feel safe in our communities, but we need community policing that protects and supports our communities – all of our communities. Not hyper-aggressive broken windows tactics, including abusive and excessive stop-and-frisk, that perpetuate the tale of two cities. The Police Department’s own stop-and-frisk data shows that the NYPD can both protect public safety and individual rights.”

The Bloomberg administration’s abuse of stop-and-frisk was a national scandal and the NYCLU in 2012 reported that use of the discriminatory policing tactic increased more than 600 percent since the mayor took office, reaching an all-time high of 685,724 stops in 2011 that mostly targeted black and Latino men. Public outrage over the abuse made stop-and-frisk a top issue for voters in the mayoral election, with Bill de Blasio campaigning heavily on police reform.

The NYCLU’s new reports debunk the Bloomberg administration’s claim that stop-and-frisk was effective in getting guns and criminals off the streets. Last year, stop-and-frisks plummeted 64 percent from 2012 and 72 percent from 2011, while shootings and homicides significantly dropped as well. The gun recovery rate was just 0.02 percent. Of the 191,558 recorded stops last year — the lowest since 2004 — almost 90 percent of those stopped were innocent, meaning they were neither arrested nor issued a summons.

As stops skyrocketed from 2002 until 2011, the number of guns recovered, shooting victims and murders changed modestly, moving up and down. When stops plummeted in 2012 and 2013, shootings and murders declined substantially, with murders falling in 2013 to the lowest level ever recorded.

“The clear lesson from 12 years of NYPD data is that increasing stop-and-frisk does not increase public safety,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “Most notably, while stops have plummeted since 2011, murders, shootings, and other serious crime all have come down since then. These facts must guide future NYPD policies and practices.”

While stop-and-frisks have dropped, the tactic still overwhelmingly targets black and Latino New Yorkers. Blacks and Latinos accounted for more than 70 percent of stops across all precincts in 2013. Once stopped, they were more likely to be frisked than white New Yorkers – even though those frisked were less likely to be found with a weapon than white New Yorkers.

The NYCLU uses the NYPD’s computerized stop-and-frisk database to examine the multiple aspects of stop-and-frisk data, including stops, frisks, use of force, reasons for stop and recovery of weapons. The 2013 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 191,851 stops in 2013 (a decrease of 64 percent from 2012 and 72 percent from 2011) were spread unevenly amongst the city’s 77 precincts, with the 73rd Precinct (Brownsville) leading the city with 8,001 stops. Setting aside the Central Park Precinct, the 94th Precinct (Greenpoint) had the fewest stops at 486.
  • In 72 out of 77 precincts, black and Latino New Yorkers accounted for more than 50 percent of stops, and in 34 precincts they accounted for more than 90 percent of stops. In six of 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.
  • 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 38.6 percent of stops in 2013. Nearly 90 percent of young black and Latino men stopped were innocent.
  • Though frisks are to be conducted only when an officer reasonably suspects the person has a weapon that might endanger officer safety, 58.2 percent of those stopped were frisked. Of those frisked, a weapon was found only 3.2 percent of the time.
  • Frisks varied enormously by precinct, with officers in the 44th Precinct in the Bronx frisking people 84.3 percent of the time, compared to a low of officers frisking people 29 percent of the time in the 20th Precinct on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
  • Black and Latino New Yorkers were more likely to be frisked than white New Yorkers and, among those frisked, were less likely to be found with a weapon.
  • In 2013 the NYPD recovered a gun in only one out of about every 500 stops, a gun recovery rate of 0.2 percent.
  • Of those stopped in 2013, 88.4 percent were innocent of any wrongdoing. More than half of innocent people stopped were frisked, and 16 percent had force used against them.
  • More than 9,000 people were stopped for alleged marijuana possession, and nearly 2,000 were arrested for marijuana-possession offenses, the third most common arrest offense in 2013.