Tens of thousands of times over six years, New York City police stopped and questioned people on the street without legal justification, says a study reported by the New York Times. In hundreds of thousands more cases, officers failed to include essential details on required forms to show whether the stops were justified, says the study by Prof. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia Law School. It was conducted for the Center for Constitutional Rights, has filed suit over what it says is a widespread pattern of unprovoked stops and racial profiling in the department's stop-question-and-frisk policy. The department denies the charges.
The study examined police data cataloging the 2.8 million times from 2004 through 2009 that officers stopped people on the streets to question and sometimes frisk them, a crime-fighting strategy the department has put more emphasis on over the years. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly rejects the accusation of racial profiling, and said the racial breakdown of the stops correlated to the racial breakdown of crime suspects. The number of stops jumped to more than 570,000 last year from 313,000 in 2004. Fagan found that in more than 30 percent of stops, officers either lacked the kind of suspicion necessary to make a stop constitutional or did not include sufficient detail on forms to determine if the stops were legally justified.