Dominion of New York

Social Justice

May 11, 2012

10 Signs of Progress in the Struggle Against Racial Profiling

NYPD make an arrest. Photo courtesy of Flick/Diacritical

Editors’ Note: This piece was originally published as “9 Signs of Progress…” We added #10 based on an important stop-and-frisk court settlement that took place after publication. 


he latest stop-and-frisk report issued this week by the New York Civil Liberties  Union (NYCLU) vividly and exhaustively parses NYPD data to reveal, among other things, a record 685,724 stops in 2011 alone.

  • Blacks and Latinos comprised 52.9 percent and 33.7 percent of those stopped respectively.Young black and Latino males age 14 to 24 were the primary NYPD targets, comprising 41.6 percent of the total stopped citywide.The number of stops of young black men exceeded the entire city population of young black men (168,126 as compared to 158,406).
  • Ninety percent of young black and Latino men stopped were innocent, the report says. NYCLU has been releasing stop-and-frisk reports since they won a court order in 2007 permitting them to access NYPD data. In the past few years, how have these numbers influenced policy, law and the public discourse in general? DoNY has compiled this list of 10 impacts.

1. Cops Speaking Out: On May 3, the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) hosted a forum entitled “From Behind the Blue Walls of Silence.” Six former New York City Police Department officers (NYPD detectives, captains and sergeants and one current officer on suspension (for, he claims, speaking out against NYPD brass) spoke candidly about “productivity goals” largely reliant upon stop-and-frisk policies targeting black and Latino residents in high crime neighborhoods. This week PROP published the report “In Their Own Words,” a series of more than 70 incriminating quotes from the officers “providing evidence … of the illegal tactics and racially biased attitudes endemic to the daily operations of the Department.”

2. Ongoing Stop-and-Frisk Law Suit #1: In February 2008, The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a class action lawsuit against the NYPD and the city alleging that the stop-and-frisk policy amounts to racial profiling and is therefore unconstitutional. The NYPD’s efforts to have the lawsuit dismissed have been unsuccessful. A trial has been ordered. And a Columbia University criminologist whose statistical analysis substantiates allegations of the department’s racially discrimination, will be allowed to testify.

3. Ongoing Stop-and-Frisk Law Suit #2: In June 2010, the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund (NAACP-LDF) filed a federal class action suit against the city and the New York Housing Authority (NYCHA) alleging that the NYPD was unconstitutionally targeting black and Latino public housing residents and visitors for stop-and-frisks based on their race and/or ethnicity. Again, the city moved to dismiss the case and, again, the judge refused to grant the request. The LDF describes the alleged unlawful practice as follows on its website:

Many of these unconstitutional stops and arrests are the product of “vertical sweeps,” an NYPD practice of stopping individuals in or around common areas of NYCHA residences without individualized suspicion. In essence, the NYPD only operates these unlawful pedestrian checkpoints in communities of color. In fact, the rate of stops and arrests for trespass in overwhelming non-white NYCHA residences is significantly higher than in surrounding areas with similar crime rates. NYCHA residences located in white or gentrifying neighborhoods display even starker rates of disparities in trespass stops and arrests.

The city has since settled with some plaintiffs. It has also instituted modest changes and trainings for police patrolling NYCHA buildings, but as of right now the case is still moving toward trial.

4. Ongoing Stop-and-Frisk Law Suit #3: In March 2012, NYCLU, Bronx Defenders and LatinoJustice PRDLEF filed a federal class action suit against the NYPD and the city alleging that through the city’s “Operation Clean Halls” program — which allows police to patrol in and around thousands of private residential buildings  — the NYPD unconstitutionally targets black and Latino residents and their visitors for stops-and-frisks. In the “Clean Halls” program, landlords provide the NYPD with written consent to enter and patrol their buildings. According to NYPD data, nearly 330,000 people were stopped for trespassing under the program between 2006 and 2010 alone. This case is currently moving toward trial.

5. A Seasoned, Sympathetic Judge: The judge handling each of the afforementioned cases is Shira Scheindlin, a woman who has proven herself unafraid of disciplining the NYPD. In 2010 an angry Scheindlin placed the city in contempt of court after the NYPD failed for decades to end an unconstitutional practice of arresting and summonsing city panhandlers. In that case data revealed that roughly 90 percent of those summonsed, arrested and prosecuted were black or Latino.

6. Political Capital: This week New York City public advocate and mayoral candidate to-be Bill de Blasio, who has previously criticized stop-and-frisk, called for an audit of the city’s stop-and-frisk policy. Although


About the Author

Dax-Devlon Ross
Dax-Devlon Ross
The author of six books, Dax has been featured on WNYC, WBAI,, Democracy Now, and Pacific Radio. His work on race, youth culture and criminal justice has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. He has lectured on literature and hip-hop culture at Fordham, Pace, City College and NYU. His book, Beat of a Different Drum (Hyperion, 2006), explored the lives of 30 African-American creatives and iconolasts.


NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, Courtesy David Shankbone Wikimedia Commons