NYCLU Report Documents NYPD Failures under Bloomberg Administration, Offers Remedies for Mayor-Elect

November 14, 2013 —  The New York Civil Liberties Union today released a report documenting the unprecedented rise in discriminatory policing in New York City under the Bloomberg administration and outlining reforms the new administration should adopt to ensure that all New Yorkers can trust and respect the NYPD.

The report, Beyond “Deliberate Indifference”: An NYPD for All New Yorkers, also includes results of a survey of more than 5,000 New Yorkers which underscores the staggering toll discriminatory policing practices take on our community. The NYCLU’s survey found that people who had more frequent negative contacts with NYPD officers – such as being stopped and frisked – were less likely to trust the police. More troubling, those people reported they are less likely to seek the NYPD when they need help or witness a crime, suggesting that zero-tolerance police tactics are undermining the NYPD’s own efforts to provide safety to New Yorkers.

“For more than a decade, New Yorkers living under the Bloomberg regime have experienced intrusive, abusive and excessive policing,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “People of color have borne an outsize burden of this injustice, but it impacts every New Yorker and the safety of the city as a whole when entire communities are afraid of the very police force that is supposed to protect them. It is time to transform the culture of the NYPD, from one of heavy handed disrespect for some to one of dignity, respect and accountability for all, so that every New Yorker is treated fairly and all feel safe, secure, respected and protected.”

Under Mayor Bloomberg’s watch, policing has dangerously encroached into the lives of everyday New Yorkers:

  • In communities of color across the city, walking to work, the subway or the corner store can result in an unjustified, humiliating and frightening stop-and-frisk encounter – a wholesale practice of discrimination and racial profiling found unconstitutional in federal court in August, 2013.
  • The NYPD’s expansive spying program targeting Muslim residents forces them to assume that wherever they go – to a mosque, a restaurant or a book store – police informants and undercover officers are watching them and recording their activity.
  • Aggressive policing has intruded into the public schools, creating a hostile atmosphere in which typical classroom misbehavior like talking out in class can land children in jail – disrupting their educations and potentially derailing their futures.

Young black men have borne the brunt of the Bloomberg administration’s discriminatory policing. In 2012, the number of stops of young black men neared the entire city population of young black men (133,119 stops, compared to 158,406 young black residents). For stepping outside to engage in the everyday activities of urban life, young men stand a good chance of being confronted by police, shouted at, thrown up against a wall or spread-eagle on the ground, and suffer the indignity of being forced to empty their pockets while they submit to a pat-down. In nine out of 10 instances, these unjustified and intimidating encounters result in neither and arrest nor a ticket.

Even though roughly 90 percent of people stopped are neither arrested nor issued a summons, the enforcement of low-level violations and misdemeanors in the city has exploded during the Bloomberg administration, funneling more and more New Yorkers into the criminal justice system for the lowest-level misconduct: riding a bike on the sidewalk, scribbling on a school desk, or possessing small amounts of marijuana. In 2012, more than 500,000 summonses were filed and 260,000 misdemeanors arraigned in New York City Criminal Courts.

“There is little evidence that these policing policies and practices make us safer,” Lieberman said. “Shooting numbers have remained relatively stable, while stop-and-frisk, the crackdown on low-level offenses, and other aggressive police tactics have skyrocketed under Bloomberg.”

In fact, the NYCLU’s survey found that aggressive NYPD actions may actually be undermining public safety. Respondents with more experiences with the NYPD – even those who reported interactions with the police that weren’t necessarily negative – said they were less likely to help with a police investigation or report a crime.

The relationship between negative experiences with the police, negative views of the police, and a survey respondent’s race were also pronounced. Across the board, black respondents reported the most negative sentiments about the NYPD. Black respondents were more likely to have negative views of the police, have experienced negative encounters with the police, feel that police officers never treat people in their neighborhood with respect, and feel that the police abuse their authority. Latino respondents also reported more negative experiences and views of the police than whites on most questions. Black respondents living in majority black and Latino neighborhoods had the most negative opinions of police and were the least willing to engage with NYPD officers. Across the board, they reported more negative views and mistrust of police than black respondents in majority white neighborhoods. These are the neighborhoods where stop and frisk and school policing have taken the heaviest toll.

Reforming the NYPD is essential to creating a New York that is safe and hospitable to all New Yorkers. The NYCLU’s recommendations to the de Blasio administration include:

  • Strengthen NYPD oversight.
  • Reform the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk.
  • Reform the role of school safety officers.
  • Re-examine the wasteful emphasis on enforcement of low-level offenses, including possession of marijuana.
  • Create a culture of transparency in the NYPD.
  • Review and reform police databases to protect New Yorkers’ privacy rights.
  • Allow broader input into decisions about police policies.
  • Develop a comprehensive early warning system for police misconduct.
  • Improve street encounters between police and members of the public.
  • Challenge the NYPD’s culture of bias-based profiling.

“New York’s tale of two cities has played out across the city for the last decade not only through a widening gap between rich and poor, but also between New Yorkers who feel protected by the police and those who too often feel threatened by them,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union. “With a new administration, it is our hope that we will begin to heal that rift by changing policing practices so that all New Yorkers can feel safe in their own communities.”

“If the new mayor can show he understands the harms of discriminatory policing tactics and implements these common-sense reforms to current policing strategies, New Yorkers can have an NYPD that truly embodies courtesy, professionalism and respect,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network.