NYPD Stopped 351,739 People Last Year for “Furtive Movements”

There’s been a good deal of reporting on this report the NYCLU released last week, but the report itself must be read to fully understand the gravity of the stop-and-frisk abuse in NYC.

Consider this chart, for example, showing that Mike Bloomberg has had even more success inflating stop-and-frisk numbers than he ever had inflating the stock market.

Then there’s the stat that shows more young black men were stopped last year (168,126 stops of young black men) than reside in the city over all (158,406 total)–statistically, at least, every single young black man has been stopped.

Finally, though, there’s the list of reasons cops gave for having stopped someone in the first place–with “furtive movements” accounting for over half the stops, and “clothes commonly used in a crime” (does this mean hoodies?) cited in 31,555. What’s worse, cops only suspect a violent crime 10% of the time.

The cops frisked the person they stopped over half the time–purportedly because they suspected a weapon that might threaten the officer. Yet they found the weapon that justified the search less than 2% of the time–and weapons were more often found on white men who were stopped than blacks or LatinosIn December, Nicholas Peart wrote a devastating op-ed on what it has been like for him to mature under Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk explosion, describing the four times he has been stopped and frisked.

Last May, I was outside my apartment building on my way to the store when two police officers jumped out of an unmarked car and told me to stop and put my hands up against the wall. I complied. Without my permission, they removed my cellphone from my hand, and one of the officers reached into my pockets, and removed my wallet and keys. He looked through my wallet, then handcuffed me. The officers wanted to know if I had just come out of a particular building. No, I told them, I lived next door.

One of the officers asked which of the keys they had removed from my pocket opened my apartment door. Then he entered my building and tried to get into my apartment with my key. My 18-year-old sister was inside with two of our younger siblings; later she told me she had no idea why the police were trying to get into our apartment and was terrified. She tried to call me, but because they had confiscated my phone, I couldn’t answer.

Meanwhile, a white officer put me in the back of the police car. I was still handcuffed. The officer asked if I had any marijuana, and I said no. He removed and searched my shoes and patted down my socks. I asked why they were searching me, and he told me someone in my building complained that a person they believed fit my description had been ringing their bell. After the other officer returned from inside my apartment building, they opened the door to the police car, told me to get out, removed the handcuffs and simply drove off. I was deeply shaken.

For young people in my neighborhood, getting stopped and frisked is a rite of passage. We expect the police to jump us at any moment. We know the rules: don’t run and don’t try to explain, because speaking up for yourself might get you arrested or worse. And we all feel the same way — degraded, harassed, violated and criminalized because we’re black or Latino.

He ends this passage by asking, “Have I been stopped more than the average young black person?” And the ACLU report makes it clear that his experience is absolutely statistically normal for a young black man.

Which presumably means the result he describes–the fear, the degradation, the criminalization–are fairly typical as well.

This systematic humiliation of one segment of our society must not be tolerated.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

11 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    One would think that a rational stop and frisk policy would require something approaching probable cause to believe that a violent crime might be contemplated.

    These stats suggest a blatant policy of intimidation of non-whites is the norm, together with a randomness that makes the intimidation general, as if it such stops were a “normal” and “natural” form of policing rather than an expression of a more coercive surveillance state, whose surveillance is primarily aimed at protecting the high moneyed class and, concurrently, intimidating civil society.

    It would be interesting to see similar stats for Rahm’s Chicago, especially during the upcoming NATO meeting. Or will we be treated to a news as well as civil rights blackout, and squads of Blackwater mercenaries, GIGN, GSG 9, SAS and, for good measure, a few Ghurkas masquerading as “normal” police?

  2. Jeff Kaye says:

    Outrageous, but most blacks will tell you it’s been this way a long, long time now. It is more than time for this BS to stop. – Thanks for writing on this!

    I thought this little bit from the report captures the absurdity — and the criminality — of this policy:

    In 2011 as compared to 2003 (the earliest year a gun recovery figure is available), the
    NYPD conducted 524,873 more stops but recovered only 176 more guns. This amounts
    to an additional recovery rate of three one-hundredths of one percent.

    So there is no reinforcement taking place for such behaviors, in terms of success feeding greater frequency of such behaviors. No, this is racism pure and simple. It is the face of American power, as displayed in the Bronx, East Harlem, or for that fact, Detroit, South L.A., South Side Chicago, San Francisco’s Bayview, etc.

  3. prostratedragon says:

    Most of it’s the usual bloodboilers, but that part about taking the key and trying to get into Mr. Peart’s apartment with it is new in my first- or second-hand experience, and is truly outrageous, more like something one might see on The Shield than reasonable police procedure for the real world.

    Were they intending to plant something there? Yes, strategies are needed.

  4. 1970cs says:

    How many a month to meet the quota?

    It would be interesting to see on which day of the month the largest number of searches happened, did a large majority of them take place in the last few days of the month?

  5. jayackroyd says:

    Walking back to the subway from the New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx, I went by a building that had a sign “Operation Clean Halls” displayed at the front door. I wondered what that was all about.

    The following week, I happened upon this story in my dead tree Times:


    A civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday accusing the New York Police Department of illegally stopping tens of thousands of people in privately owned buildings across the city where officers had been given permission to enter by landlords.

    Police officers routinely arrest people on criminal-trespass charges with no justification, the suit says, creating what some residents describe as a police state in which they feel compelled to carry identification while performing mundane tasks like picking up mail or doing laundry.

    And the practice has isolated many residents because friends and relatives are leery of visiting for fear of being stopped by the police, the suit says.
    Though the program began in the early 1990s as a crime-fighting tool, critics contend that it has produced a wave of unlawful stops and trespassing arrests that has paralleled the overall surge in the number of street stops in the city.

    Civil rights lawyers say that officers view the invitation to enter a building — denoted by a metal sign outside — as a license to roam hallways, laundry rooms and stairwells questioning people and making arrests. Officers have also extended this practice to sidewalks, the lawyers said.

    As a result, the suit said, “residents of some Clean Halls buildings warn their friends, family members and others not to visit them for fear that they will be stopped, questioned, searched and issued summonses or arrested for trespassing by N.Y.P.D. officers. Consequently, residents of Clean Halls buildings are restricted in their ability to maintain familial ties, friendships and other relationships with individuals of their choosing.”

  6. MadDog says:

    I’m guessing that not even one of the One Percenters are included in those statistics.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @MadDog: Well, no, bc the people getting stopped in white neighborhoods ALSO happen to be the black kids.

    Heads you lose tails you lose, kind of thing.

  8. bsbafflesbrains says:

    Take out references to where this is taking place (USA) and this reads like a description of a fascist State. Once you give up Liberty for Security you will have neither.

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