The NYPD is on track to stop and interrogate a record number of totally innocent New Yorkers in 2009, according to police reports obtained and analyzed by the New York Civil Liberties Union this week. During the first nine months of 2009, police made more than 404,000 stops of completely innocent New Yorkers – the overwhelming majority of whom were black and Latino. If stops continue at this pace, 535,000 completely innocent New Yorkers will suffer through street interrogations in 2009 – the most ever since the Department began collecting data on its troubling stop-and-frisk program.
“A practice that wastes an officer’s valuable time with a 90 percent fail rate – while at the same time humiliating hundreds of thousands of black and brown New Yorkers – is not a wise or effective policing technique,” 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 stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 137,894 times between July and September. Nearly nine out of 10 of these stops resulted in no charges or citations. This record number of stops fell disproportionately on the city’s communities of color – 77,308 of those stopped were black and 41,103 of those stopped were Latino, while only 12,398 were white.
Between April and June, police stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 140,552 times. The Department made another 171,094 stops between January and March. Overall, this record number of stops represents a 15 percent increase from the stops conducted during the first nine months of 2008. If stops continue at this pace, the NYPD will conduct a record 610,000 stops in 2009. In 2008, the current record, police stopped New Yorkers 531,159 times.
The Department is then recording the name and home address of every person stopped – including the millions of completely innocent New Yorkers who have been stopped over the years.
“The NYPD is building a massive database of black and brown New Yorkers,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “Innocent New Yorkers who are the victims of unjustified police stops should not suffer the further harm of having their personal information kept in an NYPD database, which simply makes them targets for future investigations.”
The NYCLU has for years been advocating against 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 is on its way to conducting 300,000 more stops than would be expected.