Friday, May 18, 2012

What?!? The NYPD Has Some Problems?!?

If it's a double-interrobang headline, it must be news...

The NYCLU has recently released a report on the controversial "stop and frisk" program of the NYPD, and surprise, surprise, it turns out the program is less about stopping crime that it is about harassing, intimidating, and often incarcerating poor people of color. To those of us who study the criminal justice system, the news was met with "umm...duh," but to those who don't, this was apparently a bit of a surprise.

The idea behind stop and frisk is that NYPD are given a great (possibly unconstitutional) latitude to stop and search any people they deem "suspicious" and then run their name for any possible outstanding violations (when stop and frisk catches any criminals, which is rare, it's almost exclusively from the background check, not catching them in the act of doing anything wrong.)

The only problems with the program are that it doesn't work and it's horribly racist (other than that, huge success I'm sure). But using the NYPD's own data, the NYCLU was able to easily point out some other major problems with the program. You can go read the full report (which you should, it's short and interesting), but some highlights include:

--Although the make up only 4.7% of the city's population, young Black and Latino men accounted for 41.6% of all stop and frisks. So maybe these people are just committing more crimes and deserve this hideous violation of their privacy and other assorted rights. But...

--90% of men of color stopped had committed no crimes. So maybe you can argue that 10% deserved to have their constitutional rights violated (though even that's kind of a difficult argument), but I think it's hard to argue that hundreds of thousands of people should get stopped and frisked for doing nothing wrong.

--Finally, the number of young Black men subjected to the stop and frisk is larger than the total number of young black men in the city. So you've got to give the NYPD one thing: they are thorough as shit. Once your racist violation of constitutional rights has been spread to every Black teenager you've got, better start all over and try each one again, in case you hadn't yet made it clear how alive and pervasive institutional racism is in our society today...

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