Complaints of racial profiling against the NYPD are no new phenomenon, but evidence of a systemic trend of police officers targeting minorities in recent years should trouble New Yorkers of all stripes.
The newest concrete evidence of the police force's institutionalized racial bias came earlier this week with the release of a jarring report by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The eye-opening data reveal that more than 90 percent of the 63 students arrested at the city's public schools during the 50-day 2011 summer school session were children of color.
An average of four students were arrested or issued summonses every day during the session. That reveals a disturbing tendency for pupils to be dealt with not by teachers or school administrators, but instead by the criminal justice system, which discriminates based on race, the study shows.
These facts reflect a concern about racial profiling on behalf of New York's police force that has repeatedly come into the spotlight as a result of the department's infamous stop and frisk tactic.
The policy allows police officers to stop anyone they can come up with even the slightest reason -- for instance, making a nebulous furtive movement -- to accuse of a crime, and to search them without a warrant.
In 2010, more than 601,000 New Yorkers were stopped by the police, 517,000 of whom were deemed to be entirely innocent. But a total of 53 percent of the people stopped were black, 32 percent were Hispanic and only 9 percent were white. That year, 44 percent of New Yorkers were white, while only less than only 26 and 28 percent were black and Hispanic, respectively.
Attorney Norman Siegel, director of the NYCLU from 1985 to 2000, told the International Business Times over hot chocolate Thursday that he believes such disparities prove that the stop and frisk program is discriminatory and that it will be overthrown either by the courts or by a new police commissioner in coming years.
I think more and more people are becoming aware of the racial aspect of stop and frisk, Siegel said. The perception here is that they're targeting men of color under the premise that the black and Latino men of that age are the people who commit those crimes, but even assuming that's accurate, that's quintessential stereotyping.
A pending federal class action case led by the Center for Constitutional Rights called Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al, which alleges that the NYPD has violated constitutional rights and engaged in racial profiling under stop and frisk, is currently before a federal judge in Manhattan.
But City Councilman Peter Vallone, the Democratic chair of the council's Public Safety Committee, says the practice is being used justly, and that is an absolutely essential crime-fighting tool.
He pointed to data that shows that when civilians report a crime, 66 percent of the time they describe the criminal as a male black, but that less than 60 percent of people stopped for suspicion of a crime are blacks males.
The police have proven time and time again that they don't stop people based on race. No criminal justice expert would analyze any statistics and claim that any group should be stopped at the same percentage of the rest of the population, Vallone told the IBTimes Thursday. That would mean half the stops would have to be women. It's a stupid analysis, it's done by people who don't do police work, and it's only put out there for people to get their names in the press.
Tell that to the student who told NY1 last month that he spent several days in jail after allegedly stealing a cellphone from another student.
Ah man, now I got this on my permanent record, he told the TV station. You see them girls over there laughing? It's not a laughing matter if they see their record and they don't have a good record because of the school system.