Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NY Times-Is NY A Police State For Minorities?

Cop and Resident in the neighborhood of Brookyn, NY's 73rd Precinct: Todd Heisler/NY Times
(Story reported by Al Baker and Ray Rivera for the NY Times) 

Tens of thousands of times over six years, the police stopped and questioned people on New York City streets without the legal justification for doing so, a new study says.

And in hundreds of thousands of more cases, city officers failed to include essential details on required police forms to show whether the stops were justified, according to the study written by Prof. Jeffrey A. Fagan of Columbia Law School.

The study was conducted on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is suing the New York Police Department for what the center says is a widespread pattern of unprovoked and unnecessary stops and racial profiling in the department’s stop-question-and-frisk policy. The department denies the charges.

The study examined police data cataloging the 2.8 million times from 2004 through 2009 that officers stopped people on the streets to question and sometimes frisk them, a crime-fighting strategy the department has put more emphasis on over the years.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has rejected the accusation of racial profiling, and said the racial breakdown of the stops correlated to the racial breakdown of crime suspects. Mr. Kelly has also credited the tactic with helping to cut crime to low levels in the city and with getting guns off the street.

But as the number of stops has jumped — to more than 570,000 last year from 313,000 in 2004 — the practice has come under increasing scrutiny, from lawmakers at City Hall and Albany and from civil libertarians including the constitutional rights center and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Professor Fagan found that in more than 30 percent of stops, officers either lacked the kind of suspicion necessary to make a stop constitutional or did not include sufficient detail on police forms to determine if the stops were legally justified. The study also found that even accounting for crime patterns in the city’s various neighborhoods, officers stopped minorities at disproportionate rates.

(Click here to read the full story on the NY Times website.)

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