New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the police department’s controversial stop and frisk program during a radio interview on Friday morning, and complained that the NYPD was stopping too many white people.
The comment was made during an interview with WOR-NY host John Gambling, who questioned the mayor about some of the troubling statistics of the city’s stop and frisk program and the city’s falling murder rate. In response, Bloomberg attacked critics of the NYPD and came out in favor of racial profiling:
One newspaper and one news service, they just keep saying ‘oh it’s a disproportionate percentage of a particular ethnic group.’ That may be, but it’s not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the [crime]. In that case, incidentally, I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little. It’s exactly the reverse of what they’re saying. I don’t know where they went to school, but they certainly didn’t take a math course. Or a logic course.
Bloomberg was echoing a similar argument made by the city’s lawyer last month during closing arguments in the civil suit brought against the NYPD and the Bloomberg administration. But the judge in the case called that rationale a “worrisome argument,” and civil rights groups have argued that the city’s stop-and-frisk program is unconstitutional. The U.S. Department of Justice has said that if the judge rules against the NYPD, they would seek to install an independent monitor to oversee the police department.
The statistics are overwhelming. An independent study of the city’s stop-and-frisk program found that 87 percent of the 685,724 stops in 2011 — a record high — were of blacks and latinos. Young black men between the ages of 14 and 24 were stopped 106% of the time — as in, there were more stops of young black men than the entire population of young black men.
The evidence does not support Bloomberg’s claim that stopping more minorities will lower the city’s crime rate. Stop-and-frisk had a 90 percent failure rate in 2011, and in the first three months of 2013, when the number of stops fell by 51 percent from the same period last year, the crime rate dropped as well.
And contrary to Bloomberg’s assertion that the NYPD stops too many white people, a study by the city’s own Public Advocate found that stops of white people were twice as likely to yield a weapon, and a third more likely to yield some form of contraband as compared to stops of black people.
Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the NYCLU, issued a statement to ThinkProgress on Friday afternoon in response to Mayor Bloomberg’s comment:
“Mayor Bloomberg needs a math lesson. The NYPD’s own data shows that only 11 percent of stops last year were based on suspicion that the individual has committed of a violent crime. More than half of the stops were based on ‘furtive movement’ a catch-all category that encompasses all sorts of innocent behavior. But perhaps the most compelling fact is that since Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002, nearly 9–10 of more than 5 million police stops were of completely innocent people. That is some truly troubling math. It’s time for the Mayor to turn down the rhetoric and consider meaningful solutions to a problem that is apparent to everyone in the city except him.”