The report found that more than 95,000 stops lacked any reasonable suspicion by the police. A mere 6 percent of these stops resulted in arrests, and contraband was found in only 1.8 percent of stops, with guns seized in only 0.12 percent of stops. You’d get a better yield with random stops.
Meanwhile, in 2011, a record 685,724 people were stopped, a 600 percent increase since Bloomberg became mayor. Eighty-eight percent did not result in an arrest or summons. Contraband was found in only 2 percent of stops, and weapons in a mere 1 percent of stops. That’s not smart policing, that’s racial profiling.
Further, the NYPD continues to use the terms “high crime area” and “furtive movements” in their reporting to justify their unreasonable stops, searches and seizures of men of color. Police used the term “high crime area” to justify 60% of stops, and “furtive movements” 53 percent of the time, regardless of the actual crime rate in the given area. It just doesn’t add up.
Racial profiling is so pervasive in the Big Apple that even high-ranking police brass are not immune. In 2008, two white plainclothes officers made a big mistake when they approached a black man in Queens for doing nothing in particular, ordered him to roll down the tinted windows of his SUV and step out of the vehicle. As it turns out, the man was three-star NYPD chief Douglas Ziegler, the head of the community affairs bureau and the highest ranking black officer on the force. Ziegler’s SUV was department issued, and he was wearing his ID badge around his neck. His wife, Neldra Zeigler, is the NYPD deputy commissioner for equal employment opportunity.
“Don’t you know who I am?” Chief Ziegler reportedly asked the officers.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department filed a statement of interest in the Floyd stop-and-frisk case, expressing its interest in ensuring policing practices are constitutional, and suggesting a court-appointed independent monitor for the NYPD should the court find the profiling policy unlawful.
A federal court in New York is expected to issue a decision in the case in the very near future.
And as for Commissioner Kelly, he simultaneously denies his department engages in racial profiling, and defends the racial profiling his department so blatantly conducts. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, he claimed the Bloomberg administration is guilty of saving 7,383 lives—mostly men of color—in the 11 years since the mayor took office.
“It’s understandable that someone who has done nothing wrong will be angry if he is stopped,” Kelly wrote. Yet he offered “The NYPD has too urgent a mission and too few officers for us to waste time and resources on broad, unfocused surveillance.”
Kelly called his critics’ charges of racial profiling unfair, “disingenuous” and at worst even “incendiary” in light of the Trayvon Martin death. Besides, these policies are successful in stopping crime, according to Kelly. “Sidestepping the fact that these policies work, they continue to allege that massive numbers of minorities are stopped and questioned by police for no reason other than their race,” he said. “The effect is to obscure the rock-solid legal and constitutional foundation underpinning the police department’s tactics and the painstaking analysis that determines how we employ them,” Kelly added.
Moreover, Kelly has said African-Americans are not stopped enough based on the crimes they commit, and that whites are disproportionately stopped too frequently.
Along with his attorney general Eric Holder, President Obama has spoken out against racial profiling—drone strikes notwithstanding— even touting his record as an Illinois lawmaker on racial profiling legislation.
It was laudable for the president to speak up on racial profiling and the Trayvon Martin shooting. But he undermines his stance against racial profiling if he picks Ray Kelly for DHS. Kelly’s legacy of racial profiling, of harassing black and Latino men and spying on Muslim-Americans in New York is a disgrace. In the post-Trayvon era, such a choice is even more unacceptable.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove