The first comprehensive data set on the NYPD’s use of vehicle stops shows that New York police pulled over hundreds of thousands of drivers in 2022 and nearly 90% of those searched or arrested were Black or Latino.
In the nation’s most populous city of 8.8 million inhabitants, police stopped more than 670,000 drivers in 2022, of which only 631 were in possession of a loaded weapon, reported Gothamist.
The number of traffic stops equals about the same amount of pedestrians who were stopped by the NYPD in 2011, at the height of the stop-and-frisk era when cops seemed to be finding cannabis on a huge majority of young Black and Hispanic men.
Remember Stop and Frisk? Between 2003 and 2013, the police stopped over 100,000 pedestrians annually. Throughout the decade, more than 90% of them were African-American or Latino, most between 14 and 24. The policy was declared unconstitutional in August 2013.
First Vehicle Stops Report: The NYPD has never released its vehicle stop numbers before so it’s impossible to ascertain how last year’s data compares to prior years. Although, pre-cannabis legalization data shows racial disparities in cannabis stops and arrests made by the NYPD over the course of years when Black New Yorkers, and to a lesser degree Hispanics, were eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite both groups consuming weed at similar rates.
“As with the pedestrian stops during the height of stop and frisk, we are now seeing numbers where it’s quite clear that Black and Latino drivers are being singled out for the most aggressive police activity,” said Christopher Dunn, legal director of New York Civil Liberties Union. “That’s a source of a lot of concern.”
The NYPD said the new data is just a “baseline” and that the department is still working to analyze and understand the numbers in order to “keep all New Yorkers safe and free from fear.”
Fear? In that traffic stops are the most common interactions between police and the public, experts and police reform advocates say they too often lead to violent behavior that disproportionately affects people of color and often escalates into violence. Following the horrifying police beating of Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop in Memphis, many doubt the effectiveness of car stops, noting that they put both drivers and officers in danger and rarely turn up evidence of a serious crime, noted Gothamist.
“Are we finding lots of people with murder warrants and violent, you know, people who have committed violent crimes? Or are we just arresting people who can’t afford to pay traffic tickets or other kinds of fines?” said Farhang Heydari, executive director of NYU’s Policing Project. “I’m just very skeptical that this tactic is accomplishing anything.”
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