12-Year Report On NYC's Unconstitutional Stop-And-Frisk Policy Debunks Right-Wing Media Claims

A new report from the New York Civil Liberties Union that offers a “complete factual record of stop-and-frisk activity” in New York City between 2002 and 2013 has found that this unconstitutionally performed policing tactic was largely ineffective at reducing violent crime, a clear rebuttal to right-wing media's frequent justifications for the practice.

Right-wing media have long supported stop-and-frisk policies that allow police officers to stop, question, and pat down “suspicious” pedestrians. Although stop-and-frisk when correctly practiced is generally legal, the racially discriminatory version employed by the New York Police Department was determined to be unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013. The judge in that case determined that "at least 200,000 stops were made without reasonable suspicion," which “resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.”

Nevertheless, right-wing media complained loudly about the decision, accusing the judge of “substitut[ing] her own view of the world, her own utopian view of how the world should be for the way the real life is, for the people who are trying to get by, not get killed, not get robbed, not get raped on the streets of New York.”

Fox News has been particularly vocal in their support for stop-and-frisk, with Bill O'Reilly continually insisting that stops reduce crime because “the police take the guns and they pat down people” and that without it, “more black Americans and more Hispanic Americans are going to die.” O'Reilly has also stated that stop-and-frisk “is racial profiling, but it's really criminal profiling.” Most recently, frequent Fox guest Bo Dietl, a former New York police officer, argued that scaling back stop-and-frisk was “ridiculous,” because, he claimed, it made the streets less safe for law enforcement. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy agreed, and suggested that the police were “demoralized” after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced reforms to address unconstitutional policing tactics. Other Fox hosts have erroneously claimed that stop-and-frisk is responsible for New York City's declining murder rate.

But the NYCLU's comprehensive report, which analyzes 12 years of stop-and-frisk data from NYPD records, debunks right-wing media's claims that this controversial law enforcement tool was essential for public safety. From the report:

The NYPD often sought to justify the large number of stops on the grounds that the stop-and-frisk program was critically important to recovering guns and thus reducing shootings and murders. The NYPD's data contradict this argument.

Between 2003 and 2011, annual stops increased dramatically, but gun recoveries, which were always a tiny percentage of stops, moved up and down and any increases were quite small. During that same time, the number of shooting victims remained largely flat and murders moved up and down. By contrast, in 2012 and 2013, recorded stops dropped dramatically. At the same time shootings and murders dropped dramatically.

As The Washington Post explained, “to the extent that supporters have argued that stop-and-frisk makes cities safer, the above chart is a fair rebuttal.”

Graphs via NYCLU.

Top image via Flickr/Dirk Knight under a Creative Commons License.