Delaying Stop-and-Frisk Overhaul Harms New Yorkers
MANHATTAN (CN) - New York City can't delay the court-ordered overhaul of its police department's unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
Granting the city's request would send the wrong message to the department and the people it protects, according to the ruling from U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin who found on Aug. 12 that the city's stop-and-frisk policy discriminates against minorities.
Scheindlin refused to let New York City stay enforcement of the order as it appeals.
"Contrary to statements to certain high-level city officials and pundits, this court did not order an end to the practice of stop and frisk," she wrote (emphasis in original). "Rather, this court ordered that such activity be conducted in accordance with well-established controlling law."
In her original order striking the stop-and-frisk policy, Scheindlin appointed an independent monitor to oversee changes in the department, and ordered the development of a pilot project requiring the use of body-worn cameras by officers on patrol in five select precincts.
"In short, the only activity at this stage is discussion between the monitor, the facilitator and the parties to develop the remedies described above," Scheindlin wrote. "No other specific relief is imminent, much less ordered."
The city contended in its appeal that Scheindlin erred in finding violations of the Fourth and 14th Amendments. It also said that the injunctive relief ordered was not "narrowly tailored or clear enough to address found wrongs, particularly as it has no discernible end point or standards to measure success."
Scheindlin was unmoved by the argument. "Putting aside that the city made no convincing showing of a likelihood of success on appeal, the city's final point regarding the allegedly inappropriate injunctive relief is particularly troubling," she wrote. "The reason the relief is not yet 'clear,' that no end point is yet 'discernible' and that 'standards' have not yet been determined is because the remedial phase of the case is ongoing and no final order has yet issued."
Scheindlin also said a stay would harm the plaintiffs. "A stay of this court's orders would encourage the NYPD to return to its former practice of conducting thousands upon thousands of improper stops - including those based merely on a person entering or exiting a building in which he or she resides," Scheindlin wrote. "The recent reduction in the number of stops appears to have been a positive step toward remedying an improper practice without sacrificing the security of the community."
In sum, "the danger of granting a stay far outweighs any possible benefit of granting one," she added.
The Center for Constitutional Rights applauded Scheindlin's recognition "that thousands of New Yorkers whose rights are violated regularly by the NYPD's stop and frisk practices - and not the city itself - are the ones who would be harmed by this latest attempt to delay reforms."
"After more than a decade of unconstitutional and racially discriminatory police practices, overwhelming legislative support for changes, and a massive mobilization by affected communities, it is long past time for the City to end its resistance and participate in making those changes," the group added. "If Mayor Bloomberg truly seeks a police force that serves New Yorkers, here is his opportunity - come to the table and help make it a reality."
The New York City Police Department and outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been vocal about their opposition to Scheindlin's ruling.