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Stop and frisk dropping but still ineffective

by Yoo Eun Kim, May 16, 2016

In 2013, a New York federal judge ruled that stop and frisk searches violate the constitutional rights of minorities and tasked Peter Zimroth, a former chief assistant district attorney, with introducing new policies to reform the NYC Police Department. Even though stop and frisk tactics are no longer sanctioned by the NYC Police Department, NYC officers have still been accused of employing stop-and-frisk tactics to conduct police stops and street interrogations.

Over the years, stop and frisk tactics have targeted a disproportionate number of young Blacks and Latinos. According to New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) data, in each year from 2002-2012, over 80% of those apprehended were Black and Latino. In the same time period, over 80% of the New Yorkers searched by police were found innocent.

The NYCLU data also shows that from 2011 to 2015, the number of police stops and street interrogations declined by 97%. But the proportion of innocent individuals or minority groups subject to stop and frisk has remained virtually unchanged. From 2013-2015, the percentage of those who were stopped by police and found innocent remained at around 80%.

Graph showing rate of stop and frisk
Even as the number of stop and frisks in New York has decreased significantly, the percentage of stops that resulted in further action has remained steady.

In other words, while stop and frisk is far less common today, it’s still not working when it is used. Baseless police stops and street interrogations continue to affect too many innocent minorities. The time has come to close the door on this controversial, unlawful police tactic that does little beyond undermining the liberty of minorities through fear and intimidation.

Yoo Eun Kim was a work-study Research Associate at Prison Policy Initiative from Spring 2014 to Spring 2016.

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