CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Continuing debate over stop-and-frisk in New York City

In the New York Times, Heather MacDonald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, disputed the significance of recent data showing racially disparate impact of police stop-and-frisk practices:

Allegations of racial bias, however, ignore the most important factor governing the Police Department’s operations: crime. Trends in criminal acts, not census data, drive everything that the department does, thanks to the statistics-based managerial revolution known as CompStat. Given the patterns of crime in New York, it is inevitable that stop rates will not mirror the city’s ethnic and racial breakdown.

A series of letter writers dispute her conclusions. E.g.:

To Ms. Mac Donald, and perhaps many New Yorkers, the police’s singling out of “suspicious-looking” people for questioning because they live in “high crime” neighborhoods may seem like a low-cost, intuitively compelling approach to crime prevention. To the hundreds of thousands of innocent people stopped walking to school or work, running an errand for their families or simply visiting friends, these practices have the effect of undermining communities, damaging self-esteem and corroding trust.

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