'Stop and Frisk' Program Mainly Accomplishes Harassment, Weed Arrests

Supporters of the NYPD's "stop and frisk" minority harassment program often argue that, hey, it's worth stopping and searching thousands of people with virtually no probable cause, because it makes this city a safer place. According to a new NYCLU analysis, though, it mostly just sends people to jail for weed.

First, let's just establish the baldly racist nature of the stop and frisk program right up front. Via the NYCLU:

Last year, the NYPD stopped and interrogated people 532,911 times, a 448-percent increase in street stops since 2002 – when police recorded 97,296 stops during Mayor Bloomberg’s first year in office. Nine out of 10 of people stopped were innocent, meaning they were neither arrested nor ticketed. About 87 percent were black or Latino. White people accounted for only about 10 percent of stops...

In the 10 precincts with the lowest black and Latino populations (such as the 6th Precinct in Greenwich Village), blacks and Latinos accounted for more than 70 percent of stops in six of those precincts.

It is important to keep in mind that there is a cost to stopping all of those innocent people— mistrust of the police and the city government, resentment, justified anger at an unwarranted intrusion. It is not as if all of these stops of innocent people are fine. Society pays a price for them. With that in mind, what has this 448% increase in stop and frisks accomplished? "In 2012 the NYPD recovered 729 guns through the stop-and-frisk; by contrast, more than 5,000 people were arrested last year under the program for marijuana-possession offenses."

It has accomplished putting thousands more people into the criminal justice system for weed. This is not a desirable goal even if it wasn't accomplished with such objectionable tactics.

To put that gun recovery figure in perspective: "In 2003, when 160,851 stops were conducted, 633 guns were recovered, while the 532,911 stops in 2012 resulted in 729 recovered guns." In other words, the NYPD stopped and frisked an additional 370,000 people— 90% of them innocent— in order to recover an additional 96 guns. That is an abysmal failure rate by any standard.

End stop and frisk, fire Ray Kelly.

[The full NYCLU report is here. Image via NYCLU]