New York City's new mayor delivered Thursday on his promise to reform “stop-and-frisk” police tactics, requesting to drop an appeal filed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of a federal judge's order to reform the practice, which critics say discriminates against black and Hispanic men.
"This will be one city where everyone rises together, where everyone's rights are protected," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
He said the city agreed to the appointment of a monitor for three years to oversee the creation of reforms aimed at ending discrimination. The monitor will oversee a process in which those communities most affected by the stop-and-frisk tactics will provide input on the reforms.
"I can't wait to get started," said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented plaintiffs in the lawsuits.
But he cautioned that the announcement did not mean discrimination would immediately end.
"Nobody standing here today is pretending this is mission accomplished. The problem hasn't been solved," he said. "We will have a collaborative reform process. We'll have a court monitor to ensure these reforms move forward."
Police Commissioner William Bratton said the policy as it had been carried out for years had left too many people who were frisked asking, "Why, why me?" while police officers being pressed to make ever more arrests even as crime rates fell dramatically were wondering, "Why more?"
He said the practice had torn the fabric between the police and the population. "We need to repair it," he said.
A judge ruled last year that the New York Police Department had discriminated against blacks and Hispanics when stopping, questioning and frisking people on the street. The judge ordered major reforms to the department's implementation of the policy.
Stops soared under Bloomberg to more than 5 million in the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men. About 10 percent of the stops result in arrests or summonses, and weapons are found about 2 percent of the time, studies have shown.
Four men sued the department in 2008, saying they were unfairly targeted because of their race. U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin presided over a 10-week bench trial in which she heard testimony from a dozen New Yorkers who said they were wrongly stopped. She agreed and imposed a court-appointed monitor to oversee reforms. But her ruling has been on hold pending the appeal.
The federal appeals court also took the unusual step of removing Scheindlin from the case, saying she misapplied a related ruling that allowed her to accept it to begin with and had inappropriately spoken publicly about the case.
Lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented plaintiffs in the court actions against the city, said the deal calls for a monitor to oversee reforms for three years. The monitor will oversee a process in which those communities most affected by the tactic will provide input into reforms.
"Today is the beginning of a long-overdue process: the reform of the NYPD to end illegal and racially discriminatory policing," said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
"For too long, communities of color have felt under siege by the police, and young black and Latino men have disproportionately been the target," he said in a news release. "We are eager to finally begin creating real change."
Attorney Darius Charney said the center looks "forward to working with the communities directly affected on the streets every day to come up with solutions that protect the rights of all New Yorkers."
Plaintiffs' attorney Jonathan Moore said the city's decision to drop the appeal "vindicates the findings by Judge Scheindlin and provides the opportunity for the NYPD to reform policies and practices that the district court found unconstitutional."
De Blasio and Bratton have said the policy has created a rift among New Yorkers who don't trust police. The policy, they say, has lowered morale among officers who should be praised for their stellar efforts to reduce crime to record lows.
The Associated Press