NYPD and racial profiling

After a very heated court case in city council over New York Police Department’s (NYPD) use of stop and frisk in communities, two new bills have been passed in order to try and prevent the police department from racially profiling people whom are subject to stop and search.

The first bill, named the ‘racial-profiling bill’, passing 34-17, gives the public the opportunity to sue NYPD if they feel that they have been stopped unfairly. You will be able to sue the police if you believe they targeted you due to “actual or perceived race, [ethnicity, religion or] national origin, colour, creed, age, alienage or citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or housing status”

This first bill has received criticism particularly from the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg whom claimed on the radio that the “bill is so unworkable, nobody racial profiles.”

He argued that the NYPD was not stopping a disproportionate amount of people from any particular race, gender etc. instead, he believed that the real question should be if the police is stopping a disproportionate amount of people that fit the description of crimes committed. He believed that if one were to look at it in this light, “we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little."

In the past year however, the NYPD made 533,042 stops, 87% of which were black and Latino. However, a spokesperson for Bloomberg, named Marc LaVorgna, said that "more than 90 percent of murder suspects black/Latino" Whereas whites equate to 7% of murder suspects, and 9% of stops.

This may sound like a good justification for the police and their actions; however it seems to be a manipulation in statistics, as they are focussing solely on murder suspects.

Brad Lander, a City Council member, hit back at Mr Bloomberg, by tweeting “Math for @MikeBloomberg: of those stopped, 58% of blacks & Latinos were frisked. Only 44% of whites. But whites have guns twice as often” justifying the passing of the bill.

The stop and frisk technique has resulted in more cannabis arrests.This is a very alarming thought as in New York as it is only a crime if cannabis is in public view. The police would stop individuals and ask them to empty out their pockets. Cannabis was first not in public view, but as soon as you do empty your pocket, it now is. In 2012, 729 guns were recovered, but over 5,000 people were arrested for cannabis, and 26,000 were stopped for cannabis possession.

This has accomplished nothing more than putting more and more harmless cannabis users in prison. Albeit there have been 729 guns recovered, but looking at the stats, it does not seem so significant. "In 2003, when 160,851 stops were conducted, 633 guns were recovered, while the 532,911 stops in 2012 resulted in 729 recovered guns."

The second bill that was passed, named ‘the inspector general bill’, passing 40-11, creates an inspector for the NYPD, from the department of investigation in order to keep an eye on the department.

It is more than clear that the NYPD, whether consciously or not, is racially profiling members of the public, and these two new bills will hopefully make police think twice before jumping straight to the stop and frisk technique. It is, in theory, supposed to be the very last resort. Not the first.