Black Bostonians have been disproportionately targeted for stops and frisks by Boston police, according to a new report by the Massachusetts branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Based on a study of 204,739 “Field Interrogation, Observation, Frisk, and/or Search” (FIOFS) reports filed by Boston Police Department officers between 2007 and 2010, the report found that about 63 percent of stops during that four-year period were of Black persons. That rate is even higher than that at which the New York Police Department had been found to stop and frisk Black persons—52 percent—in a study of NYPD stops conducted during the period of 2004 to 2012.
The report, “Black, Brown, and Targeted,” found that though Blacks make up only 24.4 percent of Bostonians based on 2010 Census data, they accounted for 63.3 percent of all field interrogations between 2007 and 2010. Even when accounting for mitigating factors such as neighborhood crime rates, past arrests, and alleged gang affiliation, the study finds that Blacks were still more likely than similarly-situated Whites to be stopped, as well as more likely to have that stop elevated to a frisk or search.
Of the approximately 129,600 stops endured by Blacks between 2007 and 2010, none resulted in arrests—stops resulting in arrests are not generally reported on FIOFS reports—and only 2.5 percent resulted in the seizure of contraband or a weapon.
Based on interviews with Boston residents, the report alleges that the exact rate of stops of minorities is likely underreported, since anecdotal accounts of stops suggest that residents are not always asked for basic information like their name, required for filing a FIOFS report in the first place. The report noted the chilling message such police practices have on youth of color in the city.
“By selecting Black people for the majority of…police encounters…the BPD has effectively told Black children that we are preparing them to enter a pipeline,” the report stated. “That pipeline starts in school, moves to stops and frisks on the streets, and ends with jails and prisons. Stop and Frisk creates a culture that tells our youth, ‘The place for you is behind bars.’”