DOJ to ban stop-and-frisk?
The Justice Department may soon weigh in on the New York Police Department’s continuously problematic stop-and-frisk program following a discussion on Thursday with critics still outraged by the ongoing policies considered rampant with profiling by many.
This week’s news about a possible end to the stop-and-frisk policies comes less than a month after a federal judge granted class action status to a lawsuit filed years earlier challenging the constitutionality of the department’s ongoing practice of detaining civilians based on alleged probable cause that many say is often determined by nothing more than race. Last year the NYPD stopped 685,724 people, and while 87 percent of those subsequently frisked were either black or Latino, the odds of a person from that sample actually being found guilty of a crime was only 1-out-of-10, reports the American Civil Liberties Union.
“This case presents an issue of great public concern: the disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos, as compared to Whites, who become entangled in the criminal justice system,” US District Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote in last month’s ruling. “The specific claims raised in this case are narrower but they are raised in the context of the extensively documented racial disparities in the rates of stops, arrests, convictions, and sentences that continue through the present day.”
Now that the stop-and-frisk suit has been granted class action status, additional plaintiffs are being asked to come forth and join the prosecution against the NYPD. Only weeks after that ruling, though, local and national lawmakers are joining forces to oppose the department’s policies outside of a court of law.
"If you look at the numbers, no matter how you slice stop, question and frisk, it is a racist and prejudicial policy that violates civil rights and civil liberties," New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams said during Thursday’s discussions.
As opposition becomes more and more rampant over the alleged racial profiling, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly have by-and-large defended the department’s policies. Last month Mayor Bloomberg claimed that the NYPD’s tactics, love them or hate them, shouldn’t prompt anyone involved to have to say they’re sorry because under his watch their initiatives have ended violent crimes.
"Nobody should ask Ray Kelly to apologize – he's not going to and neither am I – for saving 5,600 live,” insisted the mayor. When approached by reporters at a press conference weeks later with information confirming that the stop-and-frisks have not significantly caused a drop in crime, the mayor reportedly admitted, “I know that.”
"I mean, it’s worrisome. And Ray Kelly is working on it," he said, reports DNAInfo.com. "There are still too many guns."
On Thursday’s meeting, Councilman Williams revealed that he isn’t exactly on board with the mayor, either.
"It's clear that the mayor and commissioner – in the face of everything that points to this policy being unjust, unfair, racist, prejudiced and most importantly ineffective – won't do anything about it," Williams said. "Their lack of leadership is forcing us to do other things."