Expert Analysis of NYPD’s Own Data Reveals Pattern of Unconstitutional Stops of Blacks, Latinos
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October 26, 2010, New York, NY – The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional stops that disproportionately affects Black and Latino New Yorkers, according to an expert report filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York. The report, based on a six-year analysis of the NYPD’s own data, reaches the conclusion that the Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy is at its core based on race rather than crime statistics.
Prepared by Jeffrey Fagan, Professor of Law and Public Health at Columbia University, the report supports the claims in Floyd v. City of New York, a class action lawsuit of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) that challenges NYPD stops-and-frisks and alleges violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Among the report’s conclusions, the following findings were made:
- Nearly 150,000 stops over the last six years are unconstitutional and lack any legal justification. Another 544,252 stops may be unconstitutional but were not documented sufficiently to determine this. All together, 30 percent of all stops are either illegal or of questionable legality;
- Most stops occur in Black and Latino neighborhoods, and even after adjustments for other factors including crime rates, social conditions and allocation of police resources in those neighborhoods, race is the main factor determining NYPD stops;
- Black and Latino residents are more likely to be stopped than Whites even in areas with low crime rates where populations are mixed or mostly White;
- Nearly half of all stops are justified by citing the vague category “furtive movements,” as opposed to only 15 percent citing “fits relevant description”;
- In more than half of all stops, the officers cite “high crime area” as an “additional circumstance” even in precincts with lower than average crime rates. The Supreme Court has found specifically that it’s unconstitutional to stop and frisk a person simply because they are in a so-called “high-crime” neighborhood;
- Black and Latino suspects are treated more harshly in instances in which police officers make the determination that a crime has occurred. Black and Latino suspects are more likely to be arrested rather than issued a summons when compared to White suspects who are accused of the same crimes. Black and Latino suspects are more likely to have force used against them; and
- The rate of gun seizures is nearly zero—0.15 out of a hundred stops—a disturbingly low return for a law enforcement tactic the NYPD claims is designed specifically to remove illegal guns from the streets.
“This exhaustive and meticulously researched report makes clear what hundreds of thousands of young Black and Latino people know from their everyday lives; the NYPD stops and frisks them because of their race,” said CCR staff attorney Darius Charney.
“It’s time for the City to come to grips with the reality that they need to find an effective way to fight crime without resorting to racial profiling,” added Jonathan Moore, attorney with Beldock, Levine & Hoffman.
On January 31, 2008, CCR and the law firms of Beldock, Levine & Hoffman and Covington & Burling filed a class action lawsuit charging the NYPD with engaging in racial profiling and suspicion-less stops-and-frisks of New Yorkers. The named plaintiffs in the case—David Floyd, Lalit Clarkson, Deon Dennis and David Ourlicht—represent the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have been stopped on the way to work, in front of their house or just walking down the street, without any cause and primarily because of their race.
Jeff Fagan is a highly respected expert in the field. He is a Professor of Law and Public Health at Columbia University, a Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School, and a Fellow at the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law & Justice at NYU Law School. He has published numerous books and articles in peer-reviewed journals, law reviews and other scholarly publications, and has been appointed to scientific committees of the National Academy of Science, the American Society of Criminology, the National Science Foundation, and several government agencies.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.