Mr. Bloomberg denied that police officers stop people based on race, adding that members of minority groups were more likely to be stopped because minorities committed most of the crimes. But court documents in the three federal lawsuits that are moving through the judicial system tell another story entirely.
The data in the case of Floyd v. City of New York, a class action being heard in federal court in Manhattan, show that in tens of thousands of cases, officers reported stopping people based on “furtive movement,” a meaningless term that cannot be legally used to justify a stop. Officers also reported that they had made stops in “high crime areas,” when, in fact, some of those areas were not. In many cases, officers said that they had stopped people based on a “suspicious bulge” — suggesting a gun — in their clothing. Yet, according to court documents, officers found only one gun for every 69 stops in which they cited a “bulge.” And guns were seized in only 0.15 percent of all stops.
In addition, only 5.4 percent of all stops resulted in an arrest, and about 6 percent led to a summons. This means that in nearly 90 percent of cases, the citizens who were stopped were doing nothing illegal. In some cases, prosecutors declined to automatically prosecute arrests made in connection with the program because they knew that the stops were illegal.
Mr. Bloomberg’s suggestion that the program has been responsible for historic drops in crime is also implausible. Crime has declined all over the country, including in places that have not used New York’s aggressively invasive techniques. Besides, if crime rates and street stops had a strong correlation, the murder rate would have gone up in 2012, when stops declined by about 20 percent. In fact, the murder rate fell in 2012 to an all-time low.
Mr. Bloomberg’s implication that the program’s critics are more interested in vexing City Hall than in keeping the streets clear of murderers was especially reprehensible. No one is opposed to using effective, constitutional means of fighting crime. The problem is that over the last decade the Police Department has shown utter contempt for Fourth Amendment guarantees of freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. And worse, these tactics have been used largely against young black and Hispanic men.