Sixty-four percent of New Yorkers believe the NYPD favors whites over blacks, according to a recent New York Times poll.
Among the respondents, 80 percent of blacks said the New York Police Department practices racial favoritism while almost half (48 percent) of white New Yorkers agreed.
At the center of the debate is the controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy pushed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The policy, which allows police officers to stop and frisk any pedestrian they perceive as suspicious, has been under fire due to the disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos who are detained.
The NYPD stopped and interrogated people 684,330 times in 2011, a 14 percent increase from 2010. While some may call this simply effective police work in high-crime areas, a closer inspection of these numbers revealed that of the 684,330 people detained, 87 percent of those stopped were black or Hispanic. The disparity is especially alarming when you consider that blacks and Hispanics only make up 59 percent of the city’s population.
That may explain why the study found 57 percent of whites in favor of the stop-and-frisk laws, while only 25 percent of blacks approved—the policy rarely affect whites.
Mayor Bloomberg spoke at a black church in the Brownsville neighborhood this summer defending the program. Brownsville, one of the toughest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, had a reported 93 out of every 100 residents stopped by the NYPD in 2009.
As Police Commissioner Ray Kelly looked on, Bloomberg began to read the names of 10 New Yorkers murdered during the first week of June.
“All 10 were young men, All 10 were black and Hispanic. Sadly, 96 percent of shooting suspects are black and Latino … I don’t have to tell you about black-on-black crime.”
Bloomberg insisted that the tough tactics brought on by the policy have caused the number of men and women incarcerated to fall. “Compared to a decade ago—and listen to this carefully because nobody understands what we’ve really done—30 percent fewer people are behind bars than a decade ago.”
But last month, a New York appeals court threw out a conviction for the second time in as many weeks of a teenager caught with a loaded gun in a so-called stop-and-frisk search by officers of the New York City Police Department.The rulings come about a month after a Manhattan federal judge approved a class action over the practice. The teen, identified as Jaquan M., was 14 years old when the weapon was found in his backpack during a police search. He was stopped after officers patrolling a “drug-prone” location at night observed him putting an object into his backpack, according to the decision.The appellate panel in Manhattan yesterday reversed a lower court ruling from August 2010. The judge in the trial court found the teen was a juvenile delinquent after he conceded that his action would constitute second-degree criminal possession of a weapon if committed by an adult.
The two decisions pose legal setbacks to the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program, in which residents of high-crime neighborhoods are stopped, questioned and searched. Police must have what the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled is “reasonable suspicion” that crime is afoot to justify such stops under the U.S. Constitution.
“Reasonable suspicion could not be formed in this case based strictly on the officers’ observation of appellant removing an object from his waistband, because they conceded that the object bore no obvious hallmarks of a weapon,” the appeals panel said in a 3-2 decision written by Justice Angela M. Mazzarelli. “Further, there were no other objective indicia of criminality because there were plausible, non-criminal reasons for appellant’s behavior.”