The New York City police department, tarnished in the past by charges of brutality and racism, is defending itself against criticism over how officers decide whom to stop and search on the streets, says the Associated Press. New statistics show a fivefold increase since 2002 in the number of so-called “stop and frisks,” to more than 500,000 in 2006. The majority of people stopped, about 55 percent, were black. “It clearly says to the rest of the country that there is a racial problem with the NYPD,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who plans to file a class-action lawsuit over the police stops.
Said police spokesman Paul Browne: “Stop and questioning or stop and frisks of individuals in connection with suspected criminal activity is an essential law enforcement tool.” Maki Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the numbers portray a “much more aggressive” post-Sept. 11 law enforcement mentality. “It’s a very controversial thing because stop and frisk is probably the most problematic type of encounter that the police has with the public,” she said. “It’s very invasive, it’s very humiliating for the person stopped.” The Civilian Complaint Review Board says complaints filed alleging police abuse involving such stops and searches numbered 925 in 2002. In 2006, the board received 2,556. The board will look closely at new “stop-and-frisk” data.