How Data Took Down NYC's Stop and Frisk

When statistics and the testimony of young black men come together, justice may be possible after all.

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Access to information also led to victory in the case, known as Floyd v. New York. Charney says that the prosecution obtained the NYPD's arresting statistics without a problem and the notes were very detailed, highlighting the age, race, location, reason and approximate observation time for each stop.

In other cases of discrimination, however, it's not always so easy.

"If you ask a police executive for their data, a smart one will say, 'Nothing good can come from that,' " Fagan says. "But one advantage Charney and his legal team had was data from a previous case: Daniels v. City of New York. They also had a general pattern of data from the police, which showed the racial disproportionality and was public record. But if you're starting from scratch, it's hard to get data from police."

Still, Bloomberg's fiery defense of stop and frisk this week foreshadows a long, legal fight, and Charney has seen this scenario before. "The problem is, Bloomberg can really hold up this process with an appeal or a temporary stay," he says. "This is not the first time ... I'm also a lawyer in the case against the racial-discrimination practices of the New York Fire Department."

In that lawsuit, brought by the Justice Department, Bloomberg denied the discriminatory hiring practices, verbally attacked the judge when the city was found guilty and kept the case in court for a decade. Ultimately, the city of New York lost its appeal and is currently making procedural human resources changes.

"Now the city loses again, and it sounds like they're saying you have to violate people's rights to protect their safety," Charney says. "That can't be, but maybe Bloomberg has a different idea about what policing in a democracy is."

Hillary Crosley is The Root's New York City bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter.

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