Monday, May 05, 2008

NYPD Looks Multicultural On The Outside, But Not Inside

The NYPD has always been a controversial force in New York City. Race and class have been two strong factors about that controversy and it continues on into 2008. The NYCLU released a report today showing how race is really played out in the ranks, how force is used and how it is being kept track of.

From The NYCLU:

  • During the last two years the NYPD reported the race of those shot by police, nearly 90 percent of the people shot at by officers were black or Latino. In 1998 the Department stopped reporting the race of civilian targets and started reporting the breed of dogs being shot.
  • The NYPD command structure remains almost entirely white. At the end of 2002, 85.3 percent of the 735 members of the NYPD at or above the rank of captain were white males, with blacks holding only 3.9 percent of those positions. At the end of 2007, after five years of a large number of retirements and promotions, 84.3 percent of leadership positions were held by white males, with the numbers of blacks actually shrinking to 3.7 percent.
  • In 77 percent of the incidents where officers fired their weapons at civilians between 1999 and 2006, the officers were the only ones shooting, with officers often shooting at unarmed civilians (like Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo).
  • In 2006 (the most recent year for which there is information), police officers fired an average of five shots per incident when they were the only ones shooting, which is the highest number for the entire eight years for which these figures have been reported.

Those are serious numbers that, as Donna Lieberman of the NYCLU remarked, scream out for serious review. The police and race relations are as important as they were decades ago. Race is still a problem for the police, and without a serious investigation and enforcement of real reform, we'll be looking at the same numbers in another ten, twenty or thirty years from now.