2008 NYC police stops top 500,000

January 15, 2009 11:36:34 AM PST
New York City police stopped, questioned and frisked more than half a million people last year - a significant increase in a practice that has drawn criticism from civil rights advocates who say the tactic singles out young minority men.The new data was in a report issued Thursday by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which sued the NYPD last year over the so-called stop-and-frisk policy.

In April, attorneys for the civil rights group served the department with legal requests seeking data for the last decade.

The report was based on that raw data, some of which has already been released by the NYPD.

According to an analysis of data from the past three years, 543,982 people were stopped in 2008, compared with less than 400,000 in 2007.

The center also says 80 percent of the people stopped are black and Hispanic, and they are more likely to have physical force used against them during a stop.

New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne said the number of minorities who were singled out under the policy is consistent with overall descriptions by race provided by victims and surviving witnesses of crime.

Browne also said the assertions in the report are a restatement of unfounded accusations in the center's lawsuit. Browne noted that RAND Corporation, an independent research agency hired to analyze the same data, found no racial profiling in its examination, and "warned against the kind of simplistic comparisons made by the plaintiff."

"It should not be surprising that in a city of over 8 million, where police make approximately 400,000 arrests annually based on probable cause, they would also make approximately 500,000 stops based on the lesser standard of reasonable suspicion," Browne said.

In other findings, the center said that of the cumulative number of stops made since 2005, only 2.6 percent resulted in the discovery of a weapon.

"At that low a rate of return, you have to question whether this is a legitimately good crime-fighting strategy," said Darius Charney, an attorney working on the lawsuit.

Browne said it's not surprising or unusual that there are more stops than arrests. If police receive a report of a robbery at a bodega, and the suspect is a man in his 20s in dark clothing, police may stop several people who fit the general description. But only one, or possibly none, is actually arrested, he said.

"It is part and parcel with police work, in a city where police have driven crime down to historic lows," Browne said.

David Ourlicht, a mixed-race 21-year-old college student, is one of four named plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city. He said he was stopped by police, thrown up against a wall and frisked three times in four months last year because police told him he looked suspicious.

"I'm not a criminal, I shouldn't be treated like one," the St.

John's College student said.

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