New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, in a dramatic reversal of his predecessor’s chief law enforcement policy, settled a civil liberties lawsuit over the police practice known as “stop and frisk” and agreed to reforms in how police carry out the policy.
“Stop and frisk” allows cops to, as the phrase implies, stop and search anyone who they can “reasonably” describe as “suspicious.” While former Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed that the seemingly Orwellian policy was a major factor in the city’s falling crime rate, a federal judge last year ruled that the way police applied the stop and frisk program was unconstitutional, because most of the people stopped were African-American or Latino.
Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered that New York City appoint a monitor to oversee how police used the stop and frisk tactic, but Bloomberg appealed the decision.
Yesterday, however new New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made reforming stop and frisk one of his major campaign promises, showed he was as good as his word by announcing the city would settle the lawsuit brought in 2008 by four men who said they were targeted for stop and frisk only because they were minorities.
In 2012, over 80 percent of all stop and frisk targets were African-American or Latino, a pattern that held throughout Bloomberg’s 12-year tenure, during which there were at least 5 million stop and frisk incidents carried out by New York City cops.
But only 10 percent of the stops resulted in arrests or even summonses. And police found guns, the original purpose behind stop and frisk, only 2 percent of the time.
“We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city,” de Blasio said at a Thursday news conference. “We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.”
The mayor spoke in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, a largely African-American neighborhood that in 2010, The New York Times named as having the highest proportion of stop and frisk incidents of any district in New York City.
After Judge Scheindlin’s ruling in August of last year, the number of stop and frisk incidents plunged. There were only about 21,000 in the final quarter of 2013, compared to over 200,000 in the first quarter of 2012 when the program was a its peak.
As part of the settlement, which still must be accepted by the court and a new judge, de Blasio agreed to Judge Scheindlin’s proposal for a monitor to oversee how stop and frisk is used, with the aim to insure that minority citizens are no longer unfairly targeted.
New York City police unions, however, may still appeal the stop and frisk case. A judge Thursday gave them until February 7 to decide whether they will continue to fight the reforms announced yesterday by de Blasio.