NEW YORK -- A new analysis of the New York City Police Department's stop-and-frisk practice found that it resulted 400,000 stops of innocent black and Latino New Yorkers, far more than of other racial groups, and those encounters frequently targeted young people of color.
The police also made more arrests for marijuana possession than any other crime in 2012, despite recent moves by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to minimize the number pot arrests on the street. Those findings from an analysis of NYPD stops released Wednesday by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the widespread use of the practice.
"Despite the welcome decline in the overall number of stops, the NYPD last year still subjected hundreds of thousands of innocent people to humiliating, intimidating and unjustified stop-and-frisk encounters,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement accompanying the report. "The city’s next mayor must make a clean break from the Bloomberg administration’s ineffective and abusive stop-and-frisk regime."
From federal court to the New York City mayoral race, stop-and-frisk is increasingly under assault. But the Bloomberg administration has steadfastly opposed suggestions to curb the widespread use of the practice, in which police stop people on the street on the suspicion that they have committed a crime.
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment on the report.
Most of the time, the NYCLU analysis shows, those stops turn up nothing of interest. Eighty-nine percent of stops resulted in neither an arrest nor a summons for a minor violation. Only two percent of frisks resulted in the discovery of a weapon.
When the cops didn't find anything, it was usually after they stopped blacks (254,522 encounters, or 55.2 percent of the total) or Latinos (145,305 stops, 31.5 percent) as opposed to whites (just 9.7 percent of the innocent people stopped).
But sometimes the NYPD did find something on the people it stopped: weed. Marijuana possession was the top offense stops turned up in 2012, leading to 5,307 arrests. Weapons possession led to a smaller number of arrests, 4,061.
Those marijuana arrests seem to fly in the face of recent moves toward reform on the part of Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Both have backed changing the law in New York State so that openly possessing marijuana on the street will lead to a summons instead of an arrest, and the department has also modified its policy so that marijuana arrestees won't generally have to spend the night in jail.
Overall, the number of stops dropped from 685,724 in 2011 to 582,911 in 2012. But critics still note that even those reduced numbers are up vastly from 2004, when the police actually found more guns as a result of the practice.
The report also shows that in six of the ten precincts with the lowest population of blacks and Latinos-- such as the 6th Precinct in Greenwich Village-- blacks and Latinos still accounted for more than 70 percent of those stopped.
A landmark federal trial regarding the use of stop and frisk concluded Monday. Judge Shira Scheindlin will decide whether the NYPD has been stopping people because of their race, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause.
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