Resisting Arrest in Black and White

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NYPD officers appear to be far more likely to file resisting arrest charges against black suspects than white suspects — with dramatic differences in some parts of the city, according to a WNYC Data News analysis of court records.

Law enforcement experts say resisting arrest charges are a strong indicator that an arrest went bad and a cop had to use force. So, with the death of Eric Garner over the summer during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes, WNYC's Data News team analyzed court records to look at who gets charged with resisting arrest.

The data shows that when blacks and whites are arrested for some of the most commonly charged crimes in New York City, blacks are far more likely to also be charged with resisting arrest.

In low-level drug possession cases, for example, the citywide numbers show that a black defendant is almost twice as likely as a white defendant to face a resisting arrest charge. That disparity is even greater on Staten Island, where blacks are almost two-and-a-half times more likely to be accused of resisting arrest.

Noel Leader, a former NYPD sergeant and co-founder of the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, blamed the disparity on the illegal use of stop-and-frisk.

“This unnecessary contact between communities of color and law enforcement has created a very high level of hostility and anger,” Leader said.

But Seymour James, head of the Legal Aid Society, said the numbers don't necessarily reflect actions by people getting arrested. Instead, it could be a sign that police are more aggressive in minority communities.

“I think it’s reflective of the fact that the police are physically abusive towards people of color and treat them with less respect than whites who are arrested,” James said.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.