May 5, 2008 — The New York Civil Liberties Union today released an analysis of recently obtained NYPD reports that raise serious questions about police shooting practices and about the lack of racial diversity in the NYPD’s leadership. The highlights of the analysis, which was included in testimony delivered today to the City Council this morning, are:
- During the last two years the NYPD reported the race of those shot by police, nearly 90 percent of the people shot at by officers were black or Latino. In 1998 the Department stopped reporting the race of civilian targets and started reporting the breed of dogs being shot.
- The NYPD command structure remains almost entirely white. At the end of 2002, 85.3 percent of the 735 members of the NYPD at or above the rank of captain were white males, with blacks holding only 3.9 percent of those positions. At the end of 2007, after five years of a large number of retirements and promotions, 84.3 percent of leadership positions were held by white males, with the numbers of blacks actually shrinking to 3.7 percent.
- In 77 percent of the incidents where officers fired their weapons at civilians between 1999 and 2006, the officers were the only ones shooting, with officers often shooting at unarmed civilians (like Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo).
- In 2006 (the most recent year for which there is information), police officers fired an average of five shots per incident when they were the only ones shooting, which is the highest number for the entire eight years for which these figures have been reported.
The NYCLU’s analysis was delivered this morning at a Public Safety Committee hearing about a bill that would require the NYPD to provide detailed reports about shooting incidents, including the race of civilians shot at by the police. The NYPD opposed the bill.
“These numbers scream out for serious review by the City Council,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “As with the hundreds of thousands of stops and frisks and the hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests, being black should not make people a target for a police shooting.”
“In the aftermath of the Sean Bell verdict, it is particularly important that there be full disclosure about every aspect of NYPD shootings, including the role that race may be playing,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, who delivered this morning’s testimony. “We are deeply concerned about the figures showing that virtually everyone shot at by the police is black or Latino. Equally troubling is the fact that the NYPD leadership remains almost entirely white, with only a tiny number of black supervisors. The NYPD will never shake concerns about racial insensitivity unless it becomes more diverse at the top.”