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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

NYCLU Sues NYPD Over Racial Data

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit yesterday against the New York City Police Department (NYPD), which refused to provide data on race related to police shootings.

An article in New York Newsday reported that the department's annual report on police shootings contained racial data up until the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo, when then-Police Chief Louis Anemone was ordered to remove the data by then-Commissioner Howard Safir.

Perhaps the thinking is that if there is no evidence of racial disparities, there are no racial disparities. Or moreover, that if there is no race data, then people of color can't get angry about the department's institutional racism. The strategy hasn't worked so far.

The shooting of Sean Bell last year and the huge community response to the no guilty verdict for the police involved with the shooting show that the NYPD maintains racially tinged police practices and reenforce the experience in communities of color that the police are more likely to shoot someone who is Black or Latino than someone who is not.

The NYPD should open its books and show everyone the data. The only way to get control of the out-of-control police in the city is to begin with full information. As Anemone told Newsday,
"'Sunshine is the best disinfectant,' Anemone said, repeating a lesson he learned under a previous commissioner, Bill Bratton. 'Open the place up. We have nothing to hide.'

'This is how you get the trust of the public -- I believe in this 110 percent.'"
Whether or not the police have something to hide, revealing the full impact and racial significance of their policing is the key to addressing community concerns for real safety and fairness.

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