On Monday, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the New York police department had been intentionally targeting blacks and Hispanics for stops, questioning, and frisking. The targeting, said Scheindlin, makes the stops unconstitutional. A key part of the case against the police department was data showing that the stops are applied disproportionately to minorities. Heather MacDonald argues that assessing the stops on that kind of data ignores the reality of what police are actually doing. For example, writes MacDonald:
[Scheindlin] points out that [Officer Edgar] Gonzalez’s racial stop rate “far exceeds the percentage of blacks and Hispanics in the local population (60 percent).” In other words, though whites and Asians commit less than 1 percent of violent crime in the 88th Precinct and less than 6 percent of all crime, they should make up 40 percent of all stops—to match their representation in the local population. Never mind that the suspect descriptions that Gonzalez was given identified blacks and Hispanics as the robbery, burglary, and shooting suspects. To avoid an accusation of racial profiling, he should have stopped whites and Asians for crimes committed—according to their victims—exclusively by blacks and Hispanics.
Of course, just because crime victims identify blacks and Hispanics as their assailants doesn’t mean that race should be the primary determinant of who gets stopped—and there is no indication that it is. Thousands of blacks and Hispanics live in Fort Greene; Gonzalez stopped only a small proportion of them, basing his stops on their behavior and local crime information—for example, if they appeared to be casing a victim or burglary target at a time of day and location consistent with the current crime patterns. [City Journal, August 13]