On Monday, July 12, a New York judge put a halt to stop and frisk laws which disproportionately discriminate against Blacks and Latinos. While the law is not always perfect, the issues of liberty and justice for all must co-exist with the right to fight crime. And in the New York laws of stop and frisk, the liberty and justice for all got lost in the process of stopping and frisking over 4 million persons with the vast majority being black ( 53%) and well over 20% being Latino.
And the city’s argument failed before Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan. The case will not end stop and frisk which is legal when applied legally and under the law. New York’s law failed in that regard. The Court held that New York’s stop and frisk law violated the constitutional rights of minorities. Judge Scheindlin in a 195 page opinion, at times, scolded the police and senior management for failing to even discuss at meetings the disparity in the application of the law which affected approximately 80% of minorities among those who were stopped.
The judge scathingly wrote that the Deputy Police Commissioner for New York City looked with a blind eye at the application of the law towards minorities. Judge Scheindlin concluded her opinion by stating that the idea of universal suspicion is what Americans abhor and what Black men in America must fight constantly. In a separate opinion, Judge Scheindlin will order measures to change the practices, including a monitor to oversee changes including cameras to be used by the police.
In an earlier post, I discussed how Stop and Frisk practices in New York affected black men.
In 2010, the NYPD recorded over 600,000 stops with 84% of them being black or Latino. And the argument of reducing the crime rate while harassing and targeting innocent persons does not hold water or statistics. Today Judge Scheindlin did not address the issue of reducing crime but only the unconstitutionality of the statute.
The statistics do not really get to the heart of the real problem. They don’t tell the whole story. The problem is how young blacks and Latinos routinely feel humiliated, degraded and embarrassed at times for doing daily everyday tasks like coming out of their homes, walking in their neighborhood, going to work, going to church, the gym, visiting family and friends and God forbid standing in groups of two or more. And Judge Scheindlin did address the effect of these unconstitutional laws on black men who she says must universally face unreasonable stops by police and be subjected to frisks, humiliation and embarrassment.
The Plaintiffs in the case chose to present their case over 2 months before a non-jury trial. Change takes time and change does not occur immediately. The court’s opinion is a recognition of a change that is well overdue. A defiant Mayor Bloomberg vows to appeal calling the opinion dangerous and saying the judge “ignored the real-world realities of crime”. What is dangerous is New York’s stop and frisk policy which violates constitutional rights. And the judge focused on protecting the constitutional rights of black men and Latinos. Mayor Bloomberg has it all wrong here.