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New York Daily News

 

Mayoral wanna-be William Thompson's Stop-and-Frisk Argument Undercuts the NYPD's Legitimacy

November 02, 2009

By Heather Mac Donald

Crime has not been an issue in this mayoral race, and for good reason: Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has brought crime down an additional 38% since he took control of the New York Police Department in 2002. To ensure that public safety is not an issue in the next mayoral election, either, the city must continue its present course of data-driven policing that tries to stop crime before it happens.

City Controller and mayoral candidate William Thompson, however, has argued that the police have overused one of the NYPD’s most important powers: the right to stop, question and frisk civilians who match a description of a suspect or who are acting suspiciously in light of their surroundings. Thompson promises to undertake a “careful analysis” of the NYPD’s stop procedures to ensure “that the civil rights of all New Yorkers are respected and upheld.”

While a study sounds innocuous, NYPD stop practices have already been exhaustively analyzed. The results of a 2007 RAND Corp. study refute the notion that the NYPD is infringing on the civil rights of minorities. Thompson’s call for yet another analysis of stop and frisks suggests that he is looking for a pretext to cut back on the only reliable method for taking illegal guns off the street and an essential tool for interrupting crimes in progress.

The RAND study analyzed all documented street encounters between police and civilians in 2006, which totaled more than half a million. It found that black pedestrians were stopped at a rate that was 23% lower than their rate of violent crime commission, as reported by the victims of, and witnesses to, those crimes. Following 69% of all murders, robberies, assaults and rapes committed in New York in 2006, the victims and witnesses of those crimes, overwhelmingly minority themselves, told the police that the assailant was black. Yet blacks constituted only 53% of all stops; they are being greatly understopped compared to their crime rates.

Though the RAND study did not look at shooting data per se, the disparity between gun assaults and police stops is even greater. In the first six months of 2008, victims and witnesses told the police that blacks committed 82% of all shootings. Whites committed 1% of shootings, according to victims and witnesses, though they make up 35% of the city’s population and 11% of all stops.

Anti-police activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton and the New York Civil Liberties Union manage to wring the charge of police racism from such data by comparing stop rates to population data. Blacks are 24% of New York City’s residents; they are thus stopped at a rate over twice that of their representation in the population.

But the police do not make deployment decisions based on population ratios; they send officers to where crime is the highest. It is in the neighborhoods with the highest crime where police activity — accosting someone hanging out at a known drug corner at 2 a.m., say, or hitching up his waistband as if he has a gun in it — is most intense, because that is where it is most needed.

If the police were to start aligning their enforcement activities to population data instead of actual crime — directing 35% of all gun stops at whites, say, even though whites commit only 1% of all shootings — they would be leaving law-abiding residents of poor neighborhoods, who are most vulnerable to crime, without adequate protection.

Thompson undoubtedly has no intention of jeopardizing New York’s unmatched conquest of street violence. But by resurrecting the thoroughly discredited charge that the police are racially abusing their stop authority, he undercuts the NYPD’s precious legitimacy and makes its lawful work much more difficult.

If Thompson really is only interested in studying stop-and-frisk policy and will abide by whatever the findings suggest, he is guilty merely of wanting to waste taxpayers’ money on an investigation that has already been done by one of the country’s premier research organizations.

If, however, Thompson is signaling his intention to curtail officers’ ability to stop, question and frisk suspicious persons, New Yorkers should be seriously concerned about what a Thompson mayoralty would mean for the city. Nothing was more important to New York’s economic and cultural resurgence over the past 16 years than its 77% drop in crime. Assertive policing, including stop and frisks, drove that crime fall. Handcuff such policing, and crime will eventually re-engulf New York.

There is no need to fix what is not broken. The NYPD is not broken; it is the most successful department in the country and should stay that way.

Original Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2009/11/02/2009-11-02_mayoral_wannabe_william_thompsons_stopandfrisk_argument_undercuts_the_nypds_legi.html

 

 
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