Stops - In the Name of the Law

February 11, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

On TV and in the movies, street cops rarely make a mistake. They have a sixth sense that they develop from years of experience on the streets. It tells them who’s dangerous and who’s not, who’s a criminal and who’s not, who’s holding (drugs, weapons) and who’s not.

On the real streets, things don’t always turn out that way. A few months ago, I posted some data from a study of the LAPD showing that the blue sixth sense was especially faulty when white cops suspected non-whites.

Now we have data on street stops by the NYPD. It’s not exactly the stuff of television.

(I know there’s a Pac-Man joke lurking here, but I just can’t come up with it.)

Of the roughly 530,000 stops, 465,000 led to no further official action. Only 12% led to an arrest or a summons.

No wonder the NYPD wanted to keep the numbers secret, as they had up until seven years ago. Now the law requires them to publish the information – a law passed in the wake of a celebrated case of New York police killing an innocent man (four cops fired 41 bullets at him).


mike3550 said...

I wish that they would make their point-level crime data available as well! Or at least summarized to some level considerably smaller than precincts. I hope that it doesn't take another grievous miscarriage of justice to get a hold of it, though.

Jay Livingston said...

It would also be useful to know just what constitutes a "stop" (something that has to be reported and counted) and what does not.