Ninety percent of those stopped by the NYPD are black and latino. So says the New York Times. Is this a cause for concern? I don't know. Something certainly bothers me when my male black and hispanic students complain of being stopped by the police often (and often rudely stopped).
But there is one touchy and politically incorrect fact that seems remiss not to mention: nine-in-ten murderers in New York are black or hispanic (just seven percent are white) [here's a previous post].
Police go where the violent crime is. And if you work in a neighborhood were the robbers and murderers are black or hispanic, you stop black or hispanic people.
Given the raw data, the racial disparity doesn't seem to be the problem. But what do I know? I don't get frisked. I'm white and live in a safe neighborhood.
The questions we should be discussing is whether or not aggressive stop-and-frisks are an effective crime prevention strategy. I like the idea that criminals are leaving their guns at home rather than risk being stopped, frisked, and arrested by the NYPD. Is that a result of stop-and-frisks? I don't know. Do the crime prevention benefits outweigh the negative community interactions with innocent people? 575,000 stops yielded 762 guns. That doesn't seem like a great hit rate to me.
If frisks are done because officers really have reasonable suspicion that a suspect is armed, go for it. But if officers are simply trying to meet "productivity goals" (read: quotas), something is very wrong.