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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Stop-and-Frisk May Be Mayor-Elect’s First Test

MANHATTAN (CN) - Amid uncertainly over the fate of "stop-and-frisk" policing, the New York Civil Liberties Union has urged mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to change course on the city's most controversial policies.

Toward the end of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure, critics of the NYPD's Stop, Question and Frisk program placed their hopes in a court battle before U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin.

In the most recent of a series of cases alleging racial profiling, Floyd v. City of New York, Scheindlin ordered the police department to force officers to wear video cameras while stopping and frisking suspects, document why they made every stop, and face the scrutiny of a court-appointed monitor on guard for racial profiling.

The 2nd Circuit temporarily stayed that ruling late last month and booted Scheindlin from the case for the appearance of bias in her press statements and remarks from the bench. Scheindlin later protested that the appellate court misinterpreted her words, and sent her attorneys to file a motion for a hearing letting her respond to the allegations.

The appellate panel, consisting of Judges John Walker Jr., Jose Cabranes and Barrington Parker, called Scheindlin a "long-serving and distinguished jurist," but they rejected her maneuver as "unprecedented" on Wednesday.

The 87-page ruling emphasizes that the appellate judges questioned only the appearance of Scheindlin's public statements, and not her legal reasoning or professional ethics, in standing by their original decision to assign the case to a new judge.

As the case heads to further appeals, the NYCLU released a 35-page report titled "Beyond 'Deliberate Indifference': An NYPD for All New Yorkers," proposing a new direction for law enforcement and civil liberties under a de Blasio administration.

De Blasio's landslide electoral victory has widely been seen as a mandate to oppose income inequality and aggressive police tactics that, in the language of his campaign, turned New York into a Dickensian "tale of two cities."

The NYCLU report takes aim at several of those policies, beyond stop-and-frisk, such as the NYPD's "expansive spying program targeting Muslim residents" (itself the subject of a lawsuit); "criminalizing the classroom" by having police make arrests in public schools; and disproportionately charging black residents with low-level marijuana possession, despite data showing that whites are more frequent users.

This report includes a survey of more than 5,000 New Yorkers, finding that black people who responded were more likely to have negative views about police that would stop them from cooperating with an investigation.

More than one-fifth of black respondents believed "that calling the police never helps, and 62 percent told the NYCLU that they have seen a crime and not reported it, according to the survey.

Though the NYCLU does not claim that its data set is representative, the report states: "These findings are troubling evidence that abusive police practices can actually make neighborhoods less connected with law enforcement and less safe places to live. They are also indicators that more positive police-community interactions could lead to more trust between New Yorkers and the police, and more effective public safety strategies based on that relationship."

De Blasio assumes office on New Year's Day.

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