New Data Visualizations Reveal the Racial Disparity of Stop and Frisk


Statistical studies have been key in determining that stop-and-frisk policing methods pretty much amount to nothing more or less than overt racial profiling. When United States District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that stop-and-frisk violated the Constitution in 2013, her decision hinged on the findings of a study conducted by Jeffrey Fagan, a prominent criminologist. The study concluded that over the course of ten years, “the NYPD has engaged in patterns of unconstitutional stops of City residents that are more likely to affect Black and Latino citizens.”

While the NYPD keeps its own records of the stops and arrests made under the stop-and-frisk program, the glaring racial overtones of this procedure can still feel relatively abstract when perusing the reports. But now, thanks to a new study conducted by independent data scientist Arman Oganisian, information concerning over 4.5 million police stops made between 2004-2013 are made almost palpable through a series of data visualizations. They starkly show the racial implications of stops made under the stop-and-frisk program over a nine year period. They also lend credence to Judge Scheindlin’s 2013 ruling and Fagan’s exhaustive study.

Oganisian’s findings convey that stop-and-frisk procedures gradually ebbed and flowed throughout the program’s beginnings, but eventually began to spike in 2010. It was around this time that a heated debate about the unconstitutionality of the program began to flare. The tactics started to wane in 2012 though, largely attributable to their examination in New York District Court.

Screenshot of Oganisian's findings. Credit: stable

Like studies before it, Oganisian’s study lays bare the racial bent of the stop-and-frisk program. Although it was proven in court, the disproportionate attention paid to black and Hispanic youth under the program bears repeating. In looking at the figure below, you’ll see “the percentage of stopped persons who were black was consistently 3.5-6.5 times higher than the percentage of stopped persons who were white,” throughout the height of the program.

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While the median age of people stopped under stop-and-frisk was 24, that number stayed consistent across race and gender. Police did however, make occasional stops on people well over that age, as indicated by another graph below:



Oganisian’s data do reflect that stop-and-frisk policy has largely slowed down, largely due to the de Blasio administration’s reform of the initiative, but it is hard to say exactly by how much. The report notes that all data is collated from officer-completed police reports, which can be problematic, to say the least.

Follow Sam Blum on Twitter @Blumnessmonster 

[H/T Stable Markets]


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