Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed Monday to appeal a federal judge's ruling that the New York Police Department's contentious policy known as stop-and-frisk violates constitutional rights -- a decision that could have national implications on the way authorities operate.
The judge's ruling "ignored real-world reality of crimes," Bloomberg said at a press conference, before describing the policy as a "vital deterrent."
"There is no question that stop, question and frisk have saved multiple lives," he said.
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled earlier Monday that the policy violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, but she did not end stop-and-frisk. Instead, she named Peter L. Zimroth, a onetime city lawyer and former chief assistant district attorney, to monitor revisions. In both roles, Zimroth worked closely with the NYPD, Scheindlin said.
The NYPD's policy of stop-and-frisk had resulted in disproportionate and discriminatory harassment of blacks and Latinos that the city's highest officials "turned a blind eye" toward, Scheindlin wrote in her opinion. "No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life."
In a class action lawsuit against the NYPD and city of New York that went to trial on March 18, four men claimed that they were unfairly targeted by police officers because of their race. Only 6 percent of stops have led to arrests, according to the New York Civil Liberty Union (NYCLU). The NYPD collected information on all arrestees, including those who were subsequently released or exonerated.
Over the past decade, police stopped and frisked city residents an estimated 5 million times, fewer than 10 percent of whom were white, the NYCLU reported.
Bloomberg denied accusations that the policy targets race. "We want to match the stops to where the crimes are."
Judge Scheindlin's ruling could have national implications on the way authorities operate.
If the ruling is implemented, Bloomberg argued that it would make New York City "and in fact the whole country a more dangerous place."
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly added, "This is a tool that every police officer in a America" uses to fight crime and keep cities safe.
Similar stop and frisk policies are implemented in many U.S. cities -- including Philadelphia, New Orleans and Nashville.
"I think that the NYPD is watched by public officials all over the country," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, told Al Jazeera. "When policies are terminated in New York, other localities are likely to pay attention."
Scheindlin issued her ruling after a 10-week trial without a jury that included testimony from top NYPD brass and a dozen people, 11 men and one woman, who said they were wrongly stopped because of their race.
City lawyers argued that the NYPD polices itself through an internal-affairs bureau, civilian-complaint board and quality assurance divisions.
On Aug. 7, the city agreed to a settlement that would end the NYPD practice of storing names of people who are stopped, arrested or issued a summons when those cases are dismissed or resolved with a fine for noncriminal violations. The NYPD used the database for years to target New Yorkers for criminal investigations merely because they had been stopped, according to the NYCLU.
Ehab Zahriyeh contributed to this report. Al Jazeera and wire services