Reports Find Unwarranted Police Stops Targeting Minorities

Reports on police stops in New York and in England and Wales bring attention to police departments regarding patterns of racial profiling.
by | November 10, 2010

In New York City, police officers have stopped and questioned pedestrians for no explained reason tens of thousands of times over six years. That's according to a study prepared for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which examined NYPD data from 2004 to 2009. In that time span, police made 2.8 million stops on the street. But according to the New York Times, officers also failed to fill in justifications for the stops on police forms in hundreds of thousands of cases.

Now, CCR is suing the NYPD on the grounds that the study highlights a pervasive pattern of unprovoked stops and racial profiling and violates the department’s stop-question-and-frisk policy. The department denies the charges.

It’s hard to argue with numbers. The number of stops has spiked from 313,000 in 2004 to 570,000 last year, causing lawmakers and civil liberties groups to raise red flags.

The study claimed that police used force 14 percent more often in stops of blacks and 9.3 percent more for Hispanics than white suspects. Guns were rarely found, and weapons and other contraband were seized 15 percent less often in stops of blacks and 23 percent less with Hispanics than of whites.

But this isn’t just a New York issue. Across the country, law enforcement practices have been thrust under the microscope. Arizona's controversial immigration law, for example, which requires immigrants to carry registration documents at all times, has been blasted as a vehicle for racial profiling.

And the profiling trend extends beyond American borders. An international study identified similar racial profiling patterns with blacks and Asian Britons in England and Wales. Conducted by the London School of Economics and the Open Society Justice Initiative, the study found that blacks were 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites. Asians were 6.3 times more likely to be stopped. Using Ministry of Justice figures for 2008-09, Open Society Justice Initiative researchers said the figures illustrate the widest “race gap” in stop-and-search that they had ever seen in the world.