Mayor Bloomberg stuck both feet in his mouth recently, saying that the New York Police Department stopped and frisked too many white people and not enough minorities, despite the fact that, in 2012, more than 87% of those stopped and frisked were black or latino. Bloomberg said, “We disproportionately stop whites too much. And minorities too little.”
Bloomberg said those who disagree with him haven’t taken a math course. I don’t know what the distribution should be, whether proportionately more whites should be stopped or whether proportionately more minorities should be stopped. Unfortunately for Mr. Bloomberg, the distribution of stop-and-frisks should not be based on the math or statistics, but probable cause. Proportionately more (all!) stop-and-frisks should be based on who appears to be committing a crime. If a police officer does not have reasonable suspicion that someone is committing a crime, the would-be suspect (or victime) should not get police attention. But this is a Fourth Amendment perspective.
Bloomberg’s perspective appears to be focused on maximizing the detection and punishment for crimes. His proposition appears to be that minorities are more likely to be criminals than whites. And if 87% are stops of minorities and that’s not enough, they must be tremendously more likely to be criminals. That leads to one conclusion—if minorities are tremendously more likely to be criminals than whites, and if the goal is to catch as many criminals as possible, then it actually makes sense to stop and frisk only minorities and every single minority individual.
If 87% of stop and frisks being directed at minorities and that’s not enough proportionally, then it is quite unlikely that a stop and frisk will be directed toward a white criminal. So why waste stop-and-frisks on whites at all. Let’s stop and frisk every single minority person. That will make the stop and frisk program most effective.
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