Last week there was much rejoicing when Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, flanked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, came out in support of ending the practice of arresting individuals for possessing small amounts of marijuana in public view.
The details here are very important. These arrests come in consequence of stop-and-frisk police powers — used across the country — otherwise known as a Terry stop (OK'd by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968) under which a cop may briefly detain a person upon reasonable suspicion of involvement in a crime but short of probable cause to arrest. When a search for weapons is also authorized, the procedure is known as a stop-and-frisk.
In the Bloomberg years in New York City, stop-and-frisks have gone through the roof. In 2002, when Bloomberg had only just stepped into the Mayor's office, 97,296 New Yorkers were stopped by the police under stop and frisk. Out of those, 80,176 were totally innocent, 82 percent.
By 2009, 581,168 New Yorkers were stopped by the police. Of those, 510,742 were totally innocent; 310,611 were black, 55 percent; ?180,055 were Latino, 32 percent; ?53,601 were white, 10 percent; ?289,602 were aged 14-24, 50 percent. For reference, according to the Census Bureau, there were about only 300,000 black men between the ages of 13 and 34 living in the city that year.
In 2011, the police stopped 685,724 New Yorkers. ?Of those, 605,328 were totally innocent, 88 percent; ?350,743 were black, 53 percent; ?223,740 were Latino, 34 percent; ?61,805 were white, 9 percent; ?341,581 were aged 14-24, 51 percent).
There are continued protests about New York City's racist application of an already essentially racist law. Last week the New York Civil Liberties Union unveiled "Stop and Frisk Watch" — a free and innovative smartphone application that will enable New Yorkers to monitor police activity and hold the New York ...