Friday, June 28, 2013

New York's Mayor Bloomberg: "we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little"

New York's mayor, Mike Bloomberg, is so fiercely defending the NYPD racially discrimnatory "stop and frisk" policy, his judgment has become impaired.
Today he said, "incidentally, I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little." Look at this data and consider whether this makes any sense.

Two years ago I asked for a criminal and investigation of the New York City government, including Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD leadership, by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department. My request follows:

June 23, 2011

The Honorable Thomas E. Perez
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Re: Request to investigate, enjoin and prosecute violations of
42 U.S.C. 14141 and 18 U.S.C. 242
by the New York Police Department and the City of New York

Dear Mr. Perez:

            Enclosed isa ten page memo prepared by Harry G. Levine, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Queens College of the City University of New York, submitted to the New York State Senate on June 15, 2011, regarding marihuana possession arrests by the New York Police Department (NYPD) in the City of New York from 1977 to 2010.

            In 1977, the State of New York enacted the Marihuana Reform Act of 1977. The legislature found “that arrests, criminal prosecutions, and criminal penalties are inappropriate for people who possess small quantities of marihuana for personal use. Every year, this process needlessly scars thousands of lives. . .” The legislature enacted New York State Penal Law section 221.05, which provides that such possession is a violation, carrying a maximum fine of $100 for a first offense. However, if marihuana is possessed “open to public view,” the offense is a class B misdemeanor (NY Penal Law section 221.10).

            Dr. Levine focused on the past fifteen years of arrests and found that the NYPD made 536,320 marihuana possession misdemeanor arrests between 1996 and 2010. In 2010, there were 50,383 such arrests. These many arrests (instead of the issuance of a ticket for the violation of NYS Penal Law section 221.05) are the result of the practice of police officers requesting or demanding that suspects empty their pockets. If they possess marihuana and comply with the officers’ request, the marihuana is then “open to public view” triggering the class B misdemeanor and an arrest.

            The extraordinarily large numbers of marihuana “open to public view” arrests constitute one out of seven of all arrests in New York City. These tens of thousands of arrests cannot be a mere coincidence resulting from the independent exercise of discretion by thousands of individual officers.  This department-wide program of issuing such orders, developed with the knowledge that the orders will be complied with and that compliance will trigger arrests of the thousands of targeted individuals, deprives these persons of their liberty through trickery, constitutes a violation of the subjects’ Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, and the subjects’ right to due process in the administration of justice.

Dr. Levine’s very extensive analysis of the data regarding these arrests reveals that “for many years, New York City has arrested African Americans at seven times the rate of whites, and Latinos at nearly four times the rate of whites. . . For the last 15 years, 87 % of the people arrested for marijuana possession have been blacks and Latinos, who use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.” (emphasis in the original at p. 2).  The charts and tables accompanying the memo report arrest rates in New York police precincts that correspond to the racial and ethnic makeup of the precinct that demonstrate an unmistakable policy of racial discrimination in the enforcement of this law. The extraordinary disparity in the rates of arrests across the city is inexplicable except as the result of a deliberate policy that targets African American and Latinos for stops and searches.

Because they are plainly targeted because of their race and ethnicity, the African American and Latino arrestees have had their privileges or immunities of citizenship abridged and have been denied equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and in violation of federal law.

The official police data analyzed by Dr. Levine makes out a prima facie case that the NYPD, its command staff, and the City of New York and its leadership charged with supervising the NYPD,

engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers or by officials or employees of any governmental agency with responsibility for the administration of juvenile justice or the incarceration of juveniles that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States,”
in violation of 42 U.S.C. 14141.

            In addition, the official data and circumstances described in Dr. Levine’s memo set forth a long-term, massive, organization-wide felonious course of conduct that is plainly designed to deprive African American and Latino residents of the City of New York of their Constitutional and legal rights under color of law, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 242.

            Dr. Levine’s careful analysis finds that these arrests target young people. Twenty-three percent of those arrested in 2010 were teenagers! These arrests target persons who have never been convicted of a crime. These arrests “scar thousands of lives” of young people by unwarrantedly creating criminal records with well-known collateral legal consequences, including denial of education, housing, and for non-citizens, deportation. That this policy of arrests is directly contrary to the purpose and intent of the New York State law regarding marihuana possession further illuminates the despicable character of this unlawful conduct by the NYPD and the City of New York.

I call upon you to direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division to:
-- open an investigation into the NYPD marihuana arrest program;
-- commence an action to enjoin the unwarranted racially discriminatory arrest and criminal prosecution of tens of thousands of African American and Latino persons annually for conduct that under New York law is a mere violation subject to a maximum fine of $100.00;
-- obtain an appropriate monetary judgment to punish and deter this egregious conduct; and
-- prosecute and appropriately punish those government officials responsible for developing, managing, supervising and approving this plainly unlawful program to violate constitutional rights.

Thank you very much for your prompt attention to this complaint.

                                                                        Sincerely yours,

                                                                        Eric E. Sterling, J.D.
                                                                        Criminal Justice Policy Foundation

cc:  Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

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