Saturday, March 13, 2010

Walking While Black

Some years ago, in some quarters, there was much talk about driving while black, the notion that police stop African American motorists much more frequently than white drivers based on racial biases.

In New York City, people might consider the issue of walking while black and brown. Columnist Bob Herbert has been highlighting what's viewed by many as the biased and troubling tendency of New York City Police officers to stop and frisk large numbers of African American and Hispanic pedestrians. Herbert sites figures from 2004 to 2009.
Police Department statistics show that 2,798,461 stops were made in that six-year period. In 2,467,150 of those instances, the people stopped had done nothing wrong. That’s 88.2 percent of all stops over six years. Black people were stopped during that period a staggering 1,444,559 times. Hispanics accounted for 843,817 of the stops and whites 287,218.
Why the discrepancies?

Herbert also finds it appalling that the police gather and keep data on the people it stops even though they have not been charged with crimes.

"If the police officers were treating white middle-class or wealthy individuals this way, the movers and shakers in this town would be apoplectic," writes Herbert. "The mayor would be called to account in an atmosphere of thunderous outrage, and the police commissioner would be gone. But the people getting stopped and frisked are mostly young, and most of them are black or brown and poor."

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