Thursday's front-page story in the New York Times by Al Baker is a classic liberal investigative chestnut: A Manhattan-centric story alleging racial discrimination in police stops, "City Minorities More Likely To Be Frisked -- Increase in Police Stops Fuels Intense Debate."
It certainly will "fuel intense debate" if the Times has anything to say about it.
But the shoe leather analysis was performed by the hard-left Center for Constitutional Rights, which is never identified ideologically but merely called "a nonprofit civil and human rights organization." Founded in 1966 by left-wing lawyer William Kuntsler, it has represented defendants at Guantanamo Bay, and its president Michael Ratner said in a December 2005 press release: "Every American should be in political rebellion against the criminals now running this country." That would be the Bush administration. Could such a group just possibly have an interest in alleging racial discrimination among the NYPD?
From Baker's story:
Blacks and Latinos were nine times as likely as whites to be stopped by the police in New York City in 2009, but, once stopped, were no more likely to be arrested.
The more than 575,000 stops of people in the city, a record number of what are known in police parlance as "stop and frisks," yielded 762 guns.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which got the data on stop and frisks after it first sued the city over the issue after the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo, said its analysis of the 2009 data showed again what it argued was the racially driven use of the tactic against minorities and its relatively modest achievements in fighting crime.
The center, a nonprofit civil and human rights organization financed by donors and foundations, and other critics of the tactic like to note that a gun buyback program conducted by the police at several Bronx churches one day in January yielded 1,186 guns.
According to the analysis of the 2009 raw data by the Center for Constitutional Rights, nearly 490,000 blacks and Latinos were stopped by the police on the streets last year, compared with 53,000 whites.
But once stopped, the arrest rates were virtually the same. Whites were arrested in slightly more than 6 percent of the stops, blacks in slightly fewer than 6 percent. About 1.7 percent of whites who were stopped were found to have a weapon, while 1.1 percent of blacks were found with one.
Baker name-checked CCR every chance he got, calling the hard-left group "a constitutional rights group."
The work by the Center for Constitutional Rights is the latest in a series of examinations of the police tactic defined by a Supreme Court decision from decades ago, Terry v. Ohio, which permitted officers to detain someone briefly based on "reasonable suspicion," a threshold lower than the probable cause necessary for a formal arrest.
In 2001, the city enacted a law requiring the police to provide quarterly reports about the raw data to the City Council and settled a lawsuit, also brought by the constitutional rights group, requiring that plaintiffs be given more valuable raw data.
Baker finally got to an opposing view from a non-police source in paragraph 27 out of 36:
But Heather Mac Donald, a research fellow at the Manhattan Institute who has spoken to police officials about the tactic, said there was no question it had an effect on crime. She said that great disparities existed in who committed crime in New York and that the police fought crime where it was highest, in mostly minority neighborhoods.
"Where are they supposed to go?" she asked.
Ms. Mac Donald echoed [police spokesman Paul] Browne, who said the police were confident the tactic was stopping crime before it occurred.
Mr. Browne took issue with the constitutional rights group's conclusions about the numbers of arrests or gun seizures the street stops yield, saying, "762 guns can do a lot of damage." He said taking guns from people in the street was different from accepting their surrender from "moms and grandmothers."
Timothy Carney at the Washington Examiner examined the same numbers from a less partisan perspective and found no racial bias in police stops:
These numbers actually point towards there being no racial profiling in these street stops....If blacks were being stopped just for being black -- and not for displaying traits suggesting they might be breaking the law -- then the arrest rate for blacks after stops would be lower than the arrest rate for whites after stops. The uniform six percent arrest rate suggests that cops are using the same standards for blacks and whites.