The NYPD stopped and interrogated at least 505,000 completely innocent New Yorkers in 2009, the most ever since the Department began collecting data on its troubling stop-and-frisk program. The new figures, released by the NYPD this week, represent a nearly 9 percent increase over 2008, when police officers stopped 465,413 innocent people.
Nearly 9 out of 10 of those stopped and questioned by police last year were neither arrested nor issued a summons. And 9 out of 10 were black or Latino.
“In just the past year, the NYPD has stopped enough totally innocent New Yorkers to fill Yankee Stadium nine times over,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It is a stunning abuse of power. It is not a crime to walk down the street in New York City, yet every day innocent black and brown New Yorkers are turned into suspects for doing just that.”
The NYPD recorded a total of 575,304 stop-and-frisk encounters in 2009. About 55 percent, or 316,417, of those stopped were black and another 32 percent, or 184,097, were Latino. Only 10 percent of people stopped were white. Over the past six years, NYPD has made 2,798,461 street stops.
The NYCLU is deeply concerned that the NYPD retains the name and home address of everyone it stops, which means the department is building a massive database of law-abiding black and Latino New Yorkers.
“Innocent New Yorkers who are wrongfully stopped and questioned and frisked by police should not suffer the added harm of having their personal information kept in an NYPD database, which simply makes them a target for future investigations,” Lieberman said.
The NYCLU has for years objected to the Department’s excessive use of street interrogations and has been fighting for details of the program to be released to the public for debate. In the summer of 2007, the NYCLU served the NYPD with a formal legal request to turn over the complete stop-and-frisk database under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. The Department resisted transparency and so, in November 2007, the NYCLU filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging the NYPD. In May of 2008, the NYCLU won that case and received the database.
The NYCLU requested the information to allow for an independent analysis of the Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which have been the subject of enormous controversy since the 1999 shooting death of Amadou Diallo.
The NYCLU’s concerns about excessive numbers of stops are supported by the RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Department in 2007. That report estimated that, “[e]ven with the most liberal assumptions,” one would expect the NYPD to have “roughly 250,000 to 330,000 stops” each year. Even when measured against the most permissive of standards, the NYPD conducted about 245,000 more stops than would be expected.
“Every year hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers are stopped, searched and interrogated by police for doing nothing more than walking down the street,” Lieberman said. “We are deeply concerned about this practice and about racial profiling by the police, and we believe the Department must take aggressive measures to address this problem.”