New Measures Aim To Crack Down On Racial Profiling In New York

Det. Anthony Mannuzza, left, and Police Officer Robert Martin, right, simulate a street stop during a training session (Credit: AP)

Early Thursday morning, New York’s City Council agreed to two new measures of oversight on the New York Police Department (NYPD), aimed at reducing instances of racial profiling, particularly the kind that has become common practice under the city’s ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policy.

The two requirements — dubbed the Community Safety Act — both passed through the council by a wide enough margin to escape a veto by Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I), a big proponent of aggressive police tactics that have led to more reports of discriminatory arrests.

The first measure dramatically alters the definition of what constitutes “bias-based profiling,” so that it will now include age, gender, sexual orientation, and the type of housing a person has. People who feel they’ve been stopped, detained, or arrested because of one of those bias-based factors will now be able to sue the NYPD, either about their individual case, or against a policy they feel discriminates particularly against one of these protected groups.

The other measure will establish an inspector general with no affiliation to the NYPD, whose job would be “to monitor and review police policy, conduct investigations and recommend changes to the department. The monitor would be part of the city’s Investigation Department alongside the inspectors general for other city agencies,” the New York Times reports.

NYPD has come under intense scrutiny recently over racial profiling — both the policy of Stop-and-Frisk, where young black men are targeted, and the surveillance of New York’s Muslim community. In the latter instance, the NYPD was found guilty of illegally spying on innocent people.

But the controversy over stop-and-frisk has been particularly galvanizing, underlining the socio-economic and race relations driving the NYPD’s crime suspicions. In March, during a trial over the constitutionality of the practice, officers testified that their departments set quotas on the number of stops and arrests per precinct. Analysis by New York City’s Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio found that, since the launch of the practice, Black and Latino people have consistently constituted 83 to 85 percent of the total stops. While that doesn’t necessarily point to racial profiling, the fact that white people who are stopped by NYPD are actually much more likely to be carrying drugs or guns than people of color does.