Racial disparities in policing have increased in New York City, data shows

Dan Krauth Image
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Racial disparities in policing increasing in NYC, data shows
Dan Krauth reports on analyzing the racial disparities data in New York City.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Despite a federal court ruling and a decline in stop and frisk arrests, data analyzed by Eyewitness News shows racial disparities have grown bigger in New York City over the past five years.

7 On Your Side Investigates found Black people were eight times more likely to be stopped and frisked by white people since 2015. They also found a majority of the stops were based on police radio calls and not self-initiated by police.

The data was analyzed as part of a collaboration between all ABC-owned stations.

Vince Riggins, a resident who lives in Brooklyn, says it's a figure he knows well.

"We call it the stop-and-frisk capital of the world," said Riggins, referring to the neighborhood where he lives.

Riggins says because of the color of his skin he's always on high-alert. Riggins says he has been stopped and frisked more than two-dozen times in his lifetime.

He was part of a class-action lawsuit filed in 2010 accusing the city of issuing hundreds of thousands of baseless summonses dating back to 2007, especially in minority communities.

"I got a lot for open container, illegal barbecuing, with charcoal, whatever, totally ridiculous stuff," he said.

The city settled the suit for $75 million. Riggins says he received a couple hundred dollars from the settlement.

In 2013, a federal judge ruled the city's stop-and-frisk strategy engaged in indirect racial profiling. It didn't ban the practice but ordered the city to change how it's done.

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Dairus Charney, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, helped fight the case.

"The one factor that seems to be driving stops more than any other, even crime, is race and that's why we have a problem," Charney said.

7 On Your Side Investigates looked into what has happened since then.

Since 2015, the number of people stopped and frisked has been cut by almost half. For example, the number went down from 22,563 in 2015 to 12,404 the following year.

But despite the dramatic drop, data shows the racial disparities have grown bigger. Over the past five years, Black people were eight times more likely to be stopped by police than white people.

And once police made stops, the data shows minorities are more likely to be frisked.

White women had the highest-hit rate which means they were more likely to have illegal contraband. Black men had the lowest-hit rate.

"More work needs to be done and I think it particularly needs to be done on the question of racial bias," said Charney. "That's the area where I think we have not seen very much progress over the past five years."

When 7 On Your Side Investigates took a deeper look at the data over the past two years, we found a majority of the calls were not self-initiated by police officers on the street. More than half of the stops were based on police radio calls.

"It makes me feel like I want to be more engaged in the process," Riggins said.

He believes it's one of the reasons protests have erupted throughout New York City and across the country. He says it's not just a local issue, it's an issue from coast-to-coast.

"We are optimistic that we can make a difference," Riggins said.

7 On Your Side reached out to the NYPD several times over two weeks for reaction to the findings. The department didn't respond to requests for comments.

The Police Commissioner did speak in general terms recently about new police reforms saying, "Our NYPD officers have worked tirelessly to carry out a series of cutting edge reforms, all geared toward increasing fairness, impartiality and accountability in policing and to deepen our ties with those we serve in every New York City neighborhood."

The data for this story was compiled and analyzed by Frank Esposito and Yun Choi for Eyewitness News.


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