The NYPD is on track to stop and interrogate a record number of totally innocent New Yorkers in 2010, according to police reports analyzed by the New York Civil Liberties Union. During the first half of 2010, police made more than 276,000 stops of completely innocent New Yorkers – the overwhelming majority of whom were black and Latino.
“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. “The NYPD is turning black and brown neighborhoods across New York City into Constitution-free zones. 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 169,403 times between April 1 and June 30. 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 – 99,628 of those stopped were black and 43,754 of those stopped were Latino, while only 15,229 were white.
Between January 1 and March 31, police stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 149,753 times. Overall, this record number of stops represents a 2.5 percent increase from the stops conducted during the half of 2009. If stops continue at this pace, the NYPD will conduct a record number of stops in 2010. In 2009, the current record, police stopped New Yorkers 575,304 times.
For the first time since the Department began collecting this data, the NYPD may not record the names and personal information of the vast majority of people stopped in a suspect database. Last month, Governor Paterson signed legislation that protects New Yorkers’ privacy rights by ending the NYPD’s practice of keeping a computer database of completely innocent people who have been stopped, questioned or frisked by police officers. The NYCLU had been raising alarms about the issue since 2007.
“That law should have sent a clear message to the Police Department that government officials are now ready to challenge the NYPD’s abusive stop-and-frisk practices,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “More legislation and perhaps Justice Department scrutiny is on the way if the Department doesn’t make serious reforms.”
The new law allows police to keep electronic databases of generic information about stop-and-frisk encounters, such as the gender and race of individuals stopped, and the location of the stops. This data is necessary to independently analyze the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk activity and identify whether officers are engaging in a pattern of racial profiling.
The database legislation complements a lawsuit filed by the NYCLU in May challenging the NYPD’s refusal to clear its stop-and-frisk database of individuals who were stopped by police, arrested or issued a summons, and subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing. The lawsuit, which is ongoing, maintains that this practice violates the state’s sealing statute.