While enjoying my morning cup of joe, needing to pack and travel to Baltimore for the Baltimore County Police Emerald Society Blue Line Bash, I found myself reading a tweet by self proclaimed “police, crime, and public safety” reporter for WNYC, Yasmeen Knah. Knah posted her recent article in the Gothamist, titled Police Stops Still Overwhelmingly Target Black and Latino New Yorkers.
The article’s title, along with a stock photo of the infamous Rev Al Sharpton, New York’s premier anti-police race-baiter, with a banner demanding the end of Stop, Question, Frisk, along with the bold “Stop Racial Profiling” just underneath was bound to be a eye burner.
Mrs. Khan goes on to compliment the DeBlasio administration for greatly reducing the number of stops where she notes such stops are down 86% from a high in 2011, noting that this was due to a federal judge ruling a year prior “finding the practice of Stop, Question, Frisk (SQF) to be discriminatory.”
In fact, Judge Scheindlin pointedly wrote in her opinion, “To be very clear: I am not ordering an end to the practice of stop and frisk”. “The purpose of the remedies addressed in this Opinion is to ensure that the practice is carried out in a manner that protects the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much needed police protection.”
The article then gives NYPD SQF data showing that there are racial disparities in the stops being made and quotes Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU, which stated the racial disparity does “persist, and that its shocking” when speaking of the data. The statistics which are in fact true if one stopped there as the author does, fit a narrative and the moral of their story, Police are abusing their powers and are inherently racist in the performance of their duties against people of color. But by stopping where they do, omitting key data, and cherry picking information for their end, they truly mislead about the means.
From the article here are notable findings from their data analysis:
•Over four years starting in 2014, police reported 92,383 stops. The combined four-year total marks a more than 86 percent decrease from stops reported in 2011 alone.
•Sixty-six percent of reported stops led to frisks, an act by police officers that requires additional justification, such as the officer having reason to believe the person has a weapon. But in 93 percent of these frisk incidents, no weapon was recovered.
•Seventy-nine percent of people stopped were neither arrested nor issued a summons. Of this group, 64 percent were frisked and 24 percent had force used against them, such as being handcuffed, as recorded on the officer’s stop report.
•Young black and Latino males, ranging in age from 14 to 24, make up 5 percent of the city’s population but accounted for 38 percent of stops. These young men and boys were neither arrested nor issued a summons 80 percent of the time.
•The 17th precinct, which covers the Lower East Side of Manhattan, has the lowest percentage of black and Latino residents in the city. But 74 percent of people stopped over the four-year period were black and Latino.
•The 44th precinct in the Bronx, which includes the area near Yankee Stadium, had the highest frisk rate—with 86 percent of stops also including frisks.
Now the above talking points on their face paint a troubling picture, but by failing to quantify actual crime data as to why these stops are disproportionate does a disservice to both the police and the communities they serve. Here I’ll detail why.
Let’s begin with the article’s point 4, stating that young black and latino males make up 5% of the cities population but account for 38% of all stops. Maybe, just maybe, in place of the narrative of inherent bias, we add the real crime data from an NYPD 2016 detailed crime synopsis report which documents that this demographic commits 92.6% of felony and misdemeanor crime in NYC, while their victims are also predominately, 78.3%, also black and latino.
Now lets address the remainder of the points highlighted in the article using information from the same NYPD report, putting a spotlight on not police inherent bias, but of the media’s inherent bias towards law enforcement. Like many have heard me say, “there are many problems in both our communities, and within policing. But we can not address these real issues if we start from a place of fiction.”
As one can plainly see, the NYPD Stop, Question, and Frisk data directly correlates with actual crime within NYC. Not only does this show good police use of report tracking, but ensures we do everything possible to protect communities of color as they are overwhelmingly the victims of crime. As for the cherry picking of precincts that are predominately white of or color, criminals look to commit crime and most often travel to the most lucrative areas to commit such. If one is looking for gold, you go where the gold is.
Articles like this by a journalist, who claims to cover public safety, should really use caution when looking to sensationalize partial data to propel a narrative in place of telling a whole story in efforts to make New York a better, safer city for all.