CNN Distorts Debate Over Proposed New York Racial Profiling Law

CNN distorted the goal of a proposed law to strengthen the ban on illegal racial profiling in New York, erroneously claiming it would not allow police to refer to race, religion, or disability at all when describing a suspect.

CNN ran a segment highlighting a New York Post article on an advertisement from the New York Police Department (NYPD) Captains Endowment Association depicting a blindfolded police officer and asking, “How effective is a police officer with a blindfold on?” The NYPD Captains Endowment Association is fighting the measure claiming that the bill would “ban cops from identifying a suspect's age, gender, color or disability.” Even though CNN's law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks, a former police officer, acknowledges that the claims made in the ad may not be true, he goes on to parrot its claims and say that if such a proposal is enacted, “cops aren't going to be able to do their job”:

Despite Brooks' assertion, the bill would not ban police officers from using those descriptions to identify a suspect. The bill clearly states that police officers cannot use “actual or perceived race ... as the determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action against an individual, rather than an individual's behavior or other information or circumstances” (emphasis added) to the suspected crime. Law enforcement can still use race and other identifying factors in stopping suspects, as long as it is not the main, or determinative, factor in doing so. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), a fitting description or having a full description of the suspect prior to stopping someone “was the reason for a stop-and frisk just 16 percent of the time in 2011,”despite the fact that 90 percent of people stopped under the NYPD's current stop-and-frisk policy were either black or Latino.

The current stop-and-frisk policy of the NYPD has been largely unsuccessful. Research has shown that the stop-and-frisk policy has never been proven effective and, despite the skyrocketing number of stop-and-frisks, shootings in New York have remained relatively steady. That's because a gun is recovered during a stop-and-frisk less than one percent of the time.