Judge Rules NYC's 'Stop-And-Frisk' Unconstitutional, City to Appeal

Controversial tactic allows cops to search anyone they deem suspicious.

August 12, 2013, 11:38 AM

Aug. 12, 2013 — -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city will appeal a ruling by a federal judge today that the NYPD's controversial so-called "stop-and-frisk" policy is unconstitutional.

Bloomberg said the tactic, which allows cops to search anyone regardless of whether they believe a crime has been committed, is "an important part of [the NYPD's] record of success."

During a press conference today the three-term mayor also criticized U.S. District Judge Shira Sheindlin for allegedly being biased against police, saying she has "made it clear she was not interested in the crime reductions" and that she "ignored the real world realities of crime."

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said he was disturbed that the judge found Big Apple police engaged in racial profiling, saying that is "recklessly untrue."

"We do not engage in racial profiling," Kelly said. "It is prohibited by law, it is prohibited by our own regulations."

Bloomberg's comments came hours after Sheindlin filed her ruling, spiked with dramatic flourishes, that deemed stop-and-frisk unconstitutional, saying the policy unfairly targeted blacks and Hispanics. Sheindlin ruled that the policy could continue, but only under strong new restrictions.

Bloomberg grew visibly angrier and more impatient as the press conference went on today, finally shutting down questions by saying the ruling is "a very dangerous decision made by a judge that, I think, does not understand how policing works."

In her ruling, Scheindlin acknowledged that the goal of deterring crime may be "laudable," but said, "Many police practices may be useful for fighting crime — preventive detention or coerced confessions, for example — but because they are unconstitutional they cannot be used, no matter how effective."

In a 198-page ruling, the judge said the "case is about whether the city has a policy or custom of violating the Constitution by making unlawful stops and conducting unlawful frisks… The city's highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner."

She also dismissed the Bloomberg administration's argument that cops simply do more stop-and-frisks in minority areas because that's where crime is highest.

"Both statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites," the judge said, ordering that the stop-and-frisk may continue only with the oversight of a federal monitor.

In addition to the monitor, Scheindlin said she will order "various remedies" including a trial program requiring the use of "body-worn cameras" in one precinct per borough and "community-based joint remedial process."

Two months before his remarks today, Kelly defended the program on ABC News "Nightline."

"The stark reality is that a crime happens in communities of color," Kelly told "Nightline" Anchor Bill Weir. Black and Hispanic residents "are being disproportionately victimized."

Scheindlin's ruling crashed into a summer heavy with the overheated battle to replace Bloomberg after 12 years in charge at City Hall.

City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a longtime Bloomberg critic and Democratic candidate for mayor, was quick to declare victory in the judge's words.

"The courts have just affirmed facts that too many New Yorkers know to be true: Under the Bloomberg administration … millions of innocent New Yorkers — overwhelmingly young men of color — have been illegally stopped," de Blasio said. "The overuse and misuse of stop-and-frisk hasn't made New York a safer city, it has only served to drive police and community further apart."

City council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Bloomberg ally running against de Blasio, said, "Too many young men of color are being stopped in the streets of New York in an unconstitutional manner and that must stop…as mayor, I intend to work with the federal monitor to help ensure these stops come down dramatically so that we can build stronger relationships between our communities of color and our police force. "

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, another candidate for the Democratic mayoral nomination, called the ruling a "teachable moment."

"When the police stop tens of thousands of citizens who have done nothing wrong -- the overwhelming number being young men of color -- basic civil rights are being violated," Weiner said.

Weiner did, however, ask the judge to delay the process of installing a monitor to oversee the NYPD until after a new mayor – and likely a new police commissioner – are sworn in in January.

Sceindlin's ruling, coming in the final months of Bloomberg's long tenure, marks another blow to a mayoral legacy that has suffered a series of shots as the billionaire media mogul prepares to return to private life.

In the last two years, Bloomberg's administration has watched as federal prosecutors revealed a heralded high-tech city payroll system pushed by the mayor was plundered in the biggest municipal-fraud scandal in Big Apple history. And Bloomberg's beloved $2 billion overhaul of the city's antiquated 911 system has suffered a series of embarrassing failures.

Through it all, though, the mayor has insisted his legacy was still secure because New Yorkers felt safer than ever and that was largely because of stop-and-frisk.

"There is no doubt," Bloomberg said in a speech in April, "that stops are a vitally important reason why so many fewer gun murders happen in New York than in other major cities – and why we are the safest big city in America."

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