A federal judge ruled Monday that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk procedure amounts to unconstitutional racial profiling. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted the judge for jeopardizing the city’s reputation as “America’s safest big city.”
Judge Shira Scheindlin considered statistics that 87 percent of those stopped in 2011 were black or Hispanic. She would not, however, hear evidence on the city’s crime rates.
“This is a dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the US Constitution as determined by the Supreme Court,” Bloomberg said. “I worry for my kids, and I worry for your kids. I worry for you and I worry for me. Crime can come back any time the criminals think they can get away with things.”
Crime has plummeted in the city since Bloomberg took office, but his third and final term is over this fall. In 2012 the murder rate was at an all-time low of 418.
Scheindlin ruled that the NYPD systematically and intentionally violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers, especially those who are black and Hispanic. Scheindlin found that 200,000 stops were made without sufficient grounds for suspicion.
In her ruling she said rank and file officers were pressured into make these stops, despite evidence that they were repeatedly made against people who were cleared of any wrongdoing. Statistics showed that only 10 percent of the stops ended in arrest and a weapon is found only a fraction of the time.
In the the lengthy decision, Scheindlin ruled the NYPD classified black and Hispanic men from age 14 to 20 as “the right people” to stop.
Chief Esposito, a high-ranking NYPD official, said in his testimony, “Well who is doing those shootings? Well, it’s young men of color in their late teens, early 20s.”
Despite having banned quota policies, the NYPD used a performance review program to see if cops are meeting their “goals,” which Scheindlin ruled are “sometimes nothing more than a euphemism for an acceptable number of stops, arrests, and summonses in targeted locations.”
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the allegation of racial profiling is “recklessly untrue”. Kelly called the NYPD “the most ethnically and racially diverse police department in the world.”
Scheindlin said that harping on crime rates doesn’t take into account the humiliation encountered by law-abiding citizens and “it is important to recognize the human toll of unconstitutional stops.”
“Those who are routinely subjected to stops are overwhelmingly people of color, and they are justifiably troubled to be singled out when many of them have done nothing to attract the unwanted attention,” she said.
Democratic mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio has long been critical of Bloomberg stop-and-frisk policy and saying it does nothing to stem crime.
His competitor for the Democratic nomination, Christine Quinn, a close friend of Bloomberg, who help him secure his third term, did an about-face on Thursday and suddenly came out against stop-and-frisk.
“If I’m mayor, Ray Kelly will be offered that job with the clear charge you get stop and frisks down. You do that constitutionally. If you can’t agree to that, don’t take the job. If you take it and you don’t do it, you’ll get fired,” Quinn said.
Republican candidate John Catsimatidis was disappointed in the judge’s ruling.
“Stop-and-frisk is an example of proactive police work that stops crime and keeps guns off the streets; dropping crime rates have proven that,” Catsimatidis said.