The Racism of NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Program. Again.

I’ve noted before that over 80% of all people targeted for stop and frisk searches by the NYPD are black or Latino, but a new report by the New York Public Advocate found what other studies have also found, that the percentage of white people found to be breaking the law is actually higher than black or Latino people.

 The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded a weapon was half that of white New

Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered a weapon in one out every 49 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 71 stops of Latinos and 93 stops of African Americans to find a weapon.

 The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded contraband was one-third less than that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered contraband in one out every 43 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 57 stops of Latinos and 61 stops of African Americans to find contraband.

 Despite the overall reduction in stops, the proportion involving black and Latino New Yorkers has remained unchanged. They continue to constitute 84 percent of all stops, despite comprising only 54 percent of the general population. And the innocence rates remain at the same level as 2011 – at nearly 89 percent.

This is likely not because white people are committing more crimes. It’s more likely because officers are only stopping white people if there is a genuine reason to suspect they’re engaged in criminality. For blacks and Latinos, any suspicion at all is viewed as a good reason to stop and frisk someone because they are viewed as inherently more criminal; for whites, there must be a stronger reason for the suspicion. Either way, the racial inequality here is absolutely obvious.

And remember, the NYPD chief of police thinks they don’t target minorities enough in the stop and frisk program.

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About Ed Brayton

After spending several years touring the country as a stand up comedian, Ed Brayton tired of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates and turned to writing as the most common outlet for the voices in his head. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and the Thom Hartmann Show, and is almost certain that he is the only person ever to make fun of Chuck Norris on C-SPAN.

  • freemage

    This is all true, though I’d consider even a one-in-forty-or-so success rate to still be an appalling number. Overy 40 people needlessly harassed to get one weapon and one drug bust? Really?

  • theschwa

    Perhaps the terrorists are right to hate us for our “freedom”?

  • markr1957

    [snark] Well obviously the NYPD isn’t harassing people of color with unjustified stop and search actions nearly enough to cause the rioting they desperately need to ‘justify’ the stop and search laws in the first place. [/snark]

  • gshelley

    I’ve complained in the past that merely looking at the percentage of people who are stopped does not demonstrate racism but if we are seeing more whites with a weapon, I don’t see any other viable alternatives, especially given actual crime statistics.

  • lochaber

    I’d like to see something about how many of these charges stick, and how many are dismissed or acquitted.

    On top of a failure rate that high, I imagine most of the ‘weapons’ they are finding aren’t really, and are trumped up charges for a pocketknife or something similar.

  • Modusoperandi

    I can’t believe it. All those white kids lives ruined.

    What we need to do is crack down harder, to punish blacks for planting all that contraband on white people.

  • EEB

    Thank for this. I have really appreciated these posts, and I’ve been saving (and sharing!) the information you’ve been providing on this issue. I’ve been involved in a very, very long, unending argument with my father on racism, police procedure, and the justice system.

    I have a question. I hope that this isn’t offensive or inappropriate; I’m trying to find information so I can better discuss this issue with my father.

    My dad is a police officer, has been a police officer for over 30 years. It is very hard to have discussions with him about these kinds of issues, because he’s incredibly sensitive to charges of racism (even though I believe he’s quite racist). When I try to bring up the hard statistics, that people of color are stopped and frisked more (a policy he agrees with and wishes was universal), that people of color are arrested more often and given harsher sentences, and that people of color are killed more often by police, even though they commit a smaller percentage of crimes, he responds with this argument:

    1) People of color must be frisked more often because they are more likely to be carrying weapons and are more dangerous. Cops are much more likely to be killed by a black person than a white person.

    2) People of color are shot more often (and more violently) because cops know that they are much more likely to be killed by them. Police officers are therefore understandably more cautious of black people, and they have the right–and responsibility–to shoot to kill to defend themselves and their fellow officers.

    3) People of color are given harsher sentences because their crimes are more violent than white people. So while it looks like they committed the same crime but the white person got a slap on the wrist and the black person got jail time, it’s not racism, it’s that the black person was violent or had a weapon.

    4) Whatever a police officer has to do to get home safe to his family at the end of the day is OK. Even if that means he has to frisk someone, or even kill someone.

    Note: These are his arguments, not mine!! However, I am having a hard time responding to these arguments. (Well, to be honest, I don’t touch argument four because neither of us can discuss it rationally.) But I have tried to look up online the evidence for arguments 1-3. So much of what comes up on my search engine is from right-wing or obviously racist sites, so I can’t trust their numbers, and I can’t find unbiased statistics on these statements. I don’t really know how to go forward, so we hit a stalemate.

    It’s gotten to the point where I just don’t discuss cases that are in the news, and I ask that he doesn’t, either. It hurts to hear my dad call dead kids “animals” and “dirtbags”, to hear him say that the grieving family members are just looking for money and publicity (even though I know that if one of his kids–biological or not–was shot, he would go nuts, and would probably be in jail soon after for attempted murder himself.)

    I love my father. In many ways, he’s an amazing man, he has supported and helped me through horrible events. I’ve seen the way he cares for people (people he would denigrate and despise if he read about them in the newspapers), friends of mine, kids and teens our family fostered, who have issues with drugs or legal troubles. He’s gone to court for friends of mine and my foster siblings. I think that’s part of the problem…in his mind, how can he be racist when he loves and cares for the foster kids (most of whom have been black) who live with us? He justifies his racism with “facts”. He believes that he isn’t racist, he’s just a realist.

    Because of that, I’m hoping that I can find information that I can use to help him change his mind. My dad is the one who taught me the value of critical thinking in the first place (even if he doesn’t always apply it himself). I’ve watched him change his mind and admit he was wrong when he’s presented with irrefutable evidence. So I don’t believe that he is hopelessly racist.

    I would really, really appreciate any help people can give. If you know of a good website, or where I should look for statistics, books or papers I should read…anything. I’m not asking people to do my homework for me, just to be pointed in the right direction, because right now, I am failing miserably.

  • lochaber


    I don’t have any statistics or anything for you, but if nothing else the claims your father are making are somewhat self-fulfilling. He’s claiming that black people are more likely to be violent, and to shoot a cop. Then he claims that cops are more likely to shoot a black person. I don’t really see any reason why a black person interacting with a cop would feel any different. They know they are more likely to be beaten, denied due process, or even killed. I’m pretty sure anyone, regardless of race, is more likeley to be violent to protect their life.

    Also, I think most claims that correlate violence with race have more to do with inequalities, and race happens to overlap with that. It’s a little easier if you can examine rates of arrest, conviction and sentence lenght within a similar class/area, instead of just blacks vs. whites, etc.

    I’m sure some of the people on here will be able to pull some statistics and sources.

    Glad to hear you are trying to discuss this with him, but it’s going to be a hard argument, people get set in their ways, and get mental reinforcement/confirmation from their communities and peers.

  • lofgren

    He’s claiming that black people are more likely to be violent, and to shoot a cop. Then he claims that cops are more likely to shoot a black person. I don’t really see any reason why a black person interacting with a cop would feel any different.

    Indeed. In addition, this attitude leads the cops to focus undue attention on innocent minorities, while allowing white criminals to go about their business unmolested. The result is a situation where black criminals are more likely to get caught than their white counterparts, and having been caught are more likely to feel desperate enough to escalate the stakes. A white criminal might be more willing to throw down his gun and trust in the system. A black criminal will be afraid the cops will just shoot him anyway. You really can’t get any more self-fulfilling than this set of claims.