In a detailed analysis (PDF) of publicly available New York Police Department data on crime in 2012, the New York Office of the Public Advocate revealed Wednesday that white people were much more likely to be carrying drugs and guns than minorities, despite making up a tiny fraction of individuals police subjected to so-called “stop-and-frisk” searches.
The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded a weapon was half that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered a weapon in one out every 49 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 71 stops of Latinos and 93 stops of African Americans to find a weapon.
The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded contraband was one-third less than that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered contraband in one out every 43 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 57 stops of Latinos and 61 stops of African Americans to find contraband.
Despite the overall reduction in stops, the proportion involving black and Latino New Yorkers has remained unchanged. They continue to constitute 84 percent of all stops, despite comprising only 54 percent of the general population. And the innocence rates remain at the same level as 2011 – at nearly 89 percent.
In a separate analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union (PDF), also published Wednesday, the group revealed that out of 532,911 stop-and-frisk searches in 2012, just 729 guns were found. By contrast, over 5,000 people were arrested for private marijuana possession, which was decriminalized city-wide in 1977. However, possessing marijuana within public view is an arrest-level offense, leading many officers to demand people empty their pockets during stop-and-frisk searches thereby upping the criminal penalties for simple possession.
As a result of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s insistence upon rampant stop-and-frisk searches, marijuana possession arrests have skyrocketed under his tenure. He attempted a fix last year by announcing that all lower level marijuana offenses would be dealt a ticket instead of a night in jail, in the absence of a law Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is pushing that would decriminalize possession across New York state.
“In the last decade since Michael Bloomberg became mayor, the NYPD has made 400,038 lowest level marijuana possession arrests at a cost of $600 million dollars,” a 2012 report by the Drug Policy Alliance explains. “Nearly 350,000 of the marijuana possession arrests made under Bloomberg are of overwhelmingly young Black and Latino men, despite the fact that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young Blacks and Latinos.”
A class action lawsuit filed over the search practice concluded Tuesday in a New York courtroom with city attorneys arguing that even with numbers like these, there’s no evidence of racial discrimination. Clinton-appointed District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin — who said Sunday she is inclined to “treat the government as only one more litigant” without any “deference” to their authority — is expected to issue a ruling on the matter in the coming weeks.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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