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NYPD Commish: Everything Wrong With Justice System

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly gave an interview to a TV station that shows him to be pretty much everything that is wrong with our criminal (in)justice system. Believe it or not, he actually argues that the NYPD’s stop and frisk program, which targets blacks and Latinos a staggering 87% of the time, isn’t racist enough.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly credited the controversial stop-and-frisk tactic for helping to push New York’s crime rate to record lows.

First, it’s important to point out that crime has been going down for two decades all over the country, not just in New York. So the chances that a local policy is responsible are slim. But let’s also note that there is strong evidence that NYPD routinely manipulates the crime statistics to make them appear artificially low. In a survey of nearly 2,000 retired NYPD officers, 80% said they knew of at least three instances where superior officers had changed a crime report to downgrade the offense or had intentionally failed to take a report of a crime.

In a television interview, New York’s top cop defended his department’s use of the crimefighting tool and blasted critics who say it targets a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos.

The stark reality is that crime happens in communities of color,” Kelly told “Nightline” co-anchor Bill Weir Wednesday.

“About 70% to 75% of the people described as committing violent crimes — assault, robbery, shootings, grand larceny — are described as being African-American.

“The percentage of people who are stopped is 53% African-American,” he continued. “So really, African-Americans are being understopped in relation to the percentage of people being described as being the perpetrators of violent crime.”

As I have been documenting for years, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most of this crime is drug-related. Blacks, whites and Latinos use and sell drugs at almost exactly the same rates, yet blacks and Latinos are disproportionately targeted. All the attention is focused on those in the inner city, ignoring the frat guy selling pot to his buddies and the corporate lawyer doing coke in the executive men’s room. Since they focus all their attention there, that’s where the arrests take place. And then they use those disproportionate numbers to justify doing the same thing.

Study after study supports this. A study of stops by the New Jersey State Police on the New Jersey Turnpike, for example, found that 15% of the drivers on the turnpike were minorities, but blacks were 42% of those stopped for a traffic violation and 72% of those subsequently arrested — despite the fact that blacks and whites were equally as likely to be violating traffic laws at the time. 77% of all searches were of minorities. A similar study in Maryland found that 17% of drivers on a major highway were black, but 70% of those stopped and searched were black. For minorities on the whole, they constituted 21% of all drivers but 80% of those who were stopped and searched.

But here’s the even more important finding. In both of those studies, whites who were pulled over and searched were actually more likely to have illegal drugs or contraband in their vehicles. In New Jersey, whites were twice as likely to be found with illegal drugs or contraband than blacks and five times more likely than Latinos. The same thing held true in Maryland. So even though white drivers were far more likely to be caught breaking the law if stopped and searched, black and Latino drivers were far, far more likely to be pulled over by the police.

And let’s bear one important thing in mind: Over 90% of those who are stopped and frisked are innocent. And an even more important thing: stop and frisk searches are unconstitutional. The 4th amendment is very clear, you cannot search someone without probable cause. Unfortunately, the courts have consistently ignored that in the context of stop and frisk searches.

Comments

  1. Ben P says

    I want to be very careful here because I’m seriously asking a question, not trying to make an argument disguised as a question.

    Blacks, whites and Latinos use and sell drugs at almost exactly the same rates, yet blacks and Latinos are disproportionately targeted. All the attention is focused on those in the inner city, ignoring the frat guy selling pot to his buddies and the corporate lawyer doing coke in the executive men’s room. Since they focus all their attention there, that’s where the arrests take place. And then they use those disproportionate numbers to justify doing the same thing.

    I’m sure this is true. But is it not also true that the majority of violent crime happens in inner cities? If that is true, how are police to deal with it? If selling cocaine on a street corner in the city leads to robberies and murders, but selling it in the men’s room of a corporate office doesn’t, are the police required to ignore this in an effort to be race neutral? or can it play a role in their consideration? If it does, how much?

    This thought was triggered by something I saw a couple months ago. The 2012 metro crime rankings put Pine Bluff Arkansas as the 2nd most dangerous city in the country, and Little Rock as 8th. I grew up in Little Rock and am reasonably familiar with Pine Bluff.

    There is certainly crime in both places, but violent crime is heavily concentrated in relatively small areas of both cities. Unsurprisingly, both cities are geographically segregated. If you live outside of the “bad neighborhoods” both cities really aren’t terribly dangerous. But within a couple square mile area there are murders every week. (We’re climbing back toward the high set in the early 90’s when little rock had a bad gang problem). Is it legitimate for the police to target these areas over other areas, or does the fact that they’re targeting minority areas (and consequently arresting mostly minorities) make it racially biased?

  2. bumperpuff says

    Poverty is pretty closely related to crime.

    Criminal charges make it very difficult to find employment.

    Lack of employment leads to poverty.

    Repeat

  3. Uncle Glenny says

    Ed, stop whining, this is saving you tax dollars. All it takes to get probable cause is a dog who wants a treat. But they cost money, so we just do without.

  4. doublereed says

    Why is this happening in New York? I thought Libs were supposed to be smarter about criminal justice. Why doesn’t the government reel these guys in. Why is Bloomberg on their side?

    We have evidence! Libs are supposed to be swayed by evidence!

  5. aluchko says

    @Ben

    Ed is mostly talking about the stops and seizures as a tool to catch drug users. But I think the commissioner is saying he wants to use them as a way to catch/deter violent criminals.

    “Most of this crime is drug-related. Blacks, whites and Latinos use and sell drugs at almost exactly the same rates, yet blacks and Latinos are disproportionately targeted. All the attention is focused on those in the inner city, ignoring the frat guy selling pot to his buddies and the corporate lawyer doing coke in the executive men’s room.”

    This is a bit of a bait-and-switch on Ed’s part, the violent crime is a result of drug use + poverty, the frat boys and corporate lawyers don’t need to commit violent crimes to support their habit so they’re less of a priority if your true aim is violent crime.

    So drug usage and drug arrests might not be the correct proxy by which to judge the effectiveness of the policy. (that being said I still don’t like it)

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