IN 2011, 9 out of 10 people targeted in the controversial stop-and-frisk program utilized by the New York Police Department were African-American or Hispanic. The city’s population is 23 percent African-American, 29 percent Hispanic, and 34 percent non-Hispanic white. Indeed, whites were the only demographic that was frisked at a proportion far below its percentage of the population: Only 9 percent of those stopped were white.
The NYPD has held strong to the belief that the program prevents crime and enhances public confidence. Whose confidence is a separate question, as the NYPD faces angry outcries and lawsuits. But the traditional civil-liberties-versus-public-safety argument is actually the wrong prism through which to evaluate this program.