As the City Council continues to look at police-supplied data showing blacks are stopped 55% of the time during stop-and-frisk searches, the community has startled to rumble. The Reverend Al Sharpton said that he would start collecting names to file a class action lawsuit against the city. He asid, "It's an outrage. It's enough. No matter how productive you are, to be cast as a suspect rather than a citizen is intolerable in this country... One will have to explain how 55% of the people stopped are black when we're not nearly 50% of the population."
The police explanation? NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, "The data indicates no racial bias in the stops, but it does show a relationship between the percentage of individuals stopped and the descriptions of suspects" - 68% of the suspects described by victims in crimes are black.
The NY Times looked at the data and had some stats on the neighborhood level: In East New York's 75th Precinct, someone was frisked about every 24 minutes last year, while in the Battery Park/ Wall Street/ TriBeCa/ SoHo area of the First Precinct, a person was stopped every 16 hours.
In the 75th Precinct, which had 173,198 residents in the 2000 census, the police made 21,483 stops in 2006. When race or ethnicity was known, in 20,494 of the cases, 69 percent were black, 24 percent Hispanic, 3 percent white and 1 percent Asian/Pacific Islander. Seven percent of the stops resulted in an arrest or a summons.
In the First Precinct, which had only 40,451 residents but has many thousands of people coming in for work and shopping every day, the police made 554 stops. Of those, 39 percent were black, 28 percent white, 21 percent Hispanic and 10 percent Asian/Pacific Islander. Four percent were arrested or received a summons.
While Reverend Sharpton says he doesn't want impede the law, he still wants people to come forward if they feel they have been targeted. However, City Councilman Peter Vallone is concerned that Sharpton will "inflame" the community, noting that at least the data shows that the races of stop-and-frisks are correlated with those who were suspected.
Photograph of an arrest during the Republican National Convention by Vidiot on Flickr