Stop-and-Frisk Ruling Finds Cheers and Jeers

(By Alan Greig, Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Alan Greig, Creative Commons license)

U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling this week that stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional because it’s a violation of civil rights and results in a “policy of indirect racial profiling” had particular meaning for community and ethnic publications.

Whether that stemmed from the demographic of their readers or from a concern for local neighborhood crime rates, reactions to the ruling came from both sides. Below is a mixed sampling of reaction that appeared in Amsterdam News, Manhattan Times and Queens Chronicle, from authored opinions to views from people on the street.

Amsterdam News columnist Jonathan P. Hicks applauded the ruling in a piece entitled, “A welcome and fitting decision on stop-and-frisk.” He said that the judge voiced what just about every African American and Latino New Yorker had already known “firsthand.”

Young people in communities of color have been stopped by the millions in the last few years for doing nothing illegal and nothing to attract suspicion apart from being young and nonwhite.

Hicks includes a quote from NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous that echoed the columnist’s sentiments.

“This is a groundbreaking victory,” he said. “Scheindlin recognized what the NAACP has been saying for years: The racial profiling tactic of stop-and-frisk has no place in our enlightened society. We hope that Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly will heed this decision and end their crude and abusive policy.”

Hicks points out that the mayor has other plans, with the first order of business being to file an appeal of the ruling.

“You’re not going to see any change in tactics overnight,” a defiant Bloomberg said, adding that he would like to keep the current practice in place until the end of his administration, on Dec. 31.

“I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a lot of people dying,” the mayor said.

Seeing no hope in Bloomberg, Hicks turns to the candidates vying for the position, telling readers to call on the mayoral hopefuls to spell out their plans of combatting tactics that amount to racial profiling.

If Bloomberg doesn’t quite understand how offensive stop-and-frisk is to millions of New Yorkers, then it is incumbent upon voters to make certain that the candidates vying to replace him get the message loud and clear. So far, they have picked up on the public mood, with varying degrees of clarity. It is now time to hold the candidates’ feet to the fire and insist that each candidate be crystal clear on how he or she would amend the pattern of racial profiling that is so repugnant to many New Yorkers.

Amsterdam News also has a detailed news piece on what went down in the ruling.

Manhattan Times staff took to the streets, asking Northern Manhattan residents for their take on the ruling.


Upper Manhattan resident Howard Blumenfeld (Photo by Joseph Perreaux via Manhattan Times)

Howard Blumenfeld thought that stop-and-frisk made streets safer.

“I believe in it,” he said, adding, “but not if it goes overboard.”

Blumenfeld thought the judge had overreached in her ruling.

“You have to protect the innocent, even at the cost of some civil rights,” he said.

Still, he thought the idea of the police wearing cameras might be a good one.

“It’s for their protection and [for] the person they stop as well.”

“There’s no problem with stopping a person if you deem him suspicious,” he said, though he suggested that the NYPD might be excessive sometimes because of “pressure on the police to fulfill their quotas.”

Others thought stop-and-frisk was not productive and did not help foster good community relations with the NYPD.

Daisy J

Daisy J. (Photo by Joseph Perreaux via Manhattan Times)

“They’re wasting their time frisking innocent New Yorkers when they’re probably needed elsewhere,” said Benny Gallagher, an Inwood native.

Daisy J., a mother at the park’s playground, agreed with Judge Scheindlin’s ruling.

“Hopefully it improves the relationship between the community and law enforcement.”

She also said the cameras will “create a system of checks and balances for cops.”

Many residents felt the policy had alienated New Yorkers of color, who represent an overwhelming majority of those stopped.

For one Uptown resident, it was “personal.”

Harlem resident Jeremiah Abraham, who has been stopped-and-frisked more than once, said the policy’s impact was personal.

“They think I’m a criminal because of the color of my skin.”

A Queens Chronicle editorial, on the other hand, spoke of its “disappointed, but not surprised” reaction to Scheindlin’s ruling. They feared that eliminating stop-and-frisk would increase violent crime if people did not have a deterrent for carrying a weapon.

First, the editorial addresses the issue of race, suggesting that the overwhelming number of blacks and Latinos being stopped and frisked makes sense given the statistics.

There’s no question that more blacks and Latinos are searched than whites are. There’s also no question that blacks and Latinos are disproportionately involved in violent crime. Together they comprise more than 90 percent of homicide suspects in the city, as well as more than 90 percent of victims. Naturally more searches occur in the neighborhoods where more minorities live.

But the historic reductions in crime the city has achieved over the last 20 years have disproportionately benefited blacks and Latinos. The murder rate has been cut by 80 percent since its record high in 1990, down to levels not seen since the mid-’50s. That’s something to celebrate.

The editorial then touches on the concerns and fears over police behavior.

(…) Their concerns shouldn’t simply be dismissed, but let’s get real: How could you be more afraid of the people who have sworn to serve and protect the public than the people who have made a career of preying on the public? Yes, there is the occasional bad police shooting, but those are rare, and, just like all homicides here, much more rare than they used to be.

The piece goes on to say that it’s not implying that nothing should be amended when it comes to stop-and-frisk. However the tactic itself keeps crime and gun-carrying in check.

That’s not to say that no change is needed. Maybe the Police Department should stop sending its newest officers into the worst neighborhoods. Certainly it should redouble its efforts to connect with the minority communities whose residents largely distrust the police. And it’s already reduced the number of frisks officers conduct.

But we worry that the restrictions Scheindlin ordered on the NYPD — and those the City Council plans to enact over Mayor Bloomberg’s veto — might result in a resurgence of violent crime. One thing the critics of stop and frisk never acknowledge is its deterrent effect. You’re a lot less inclined to go walking around with a gun if you know one wrong move could result in a frisk by a sharp-eyed cop. That deterrent will disappear if stop and frisk is largely ended.

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