New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said a court ruling that the city’s stop-and-frisk practices violate minorities’ constitutional rights “cries out for appeal” because it’s based on a small sample size.
The lawsuit that led to U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin’s August 12 decision involved four plaintiffs and focused on 19 stops by police, Kelly said. A witness for plaintiffs in the case found that six percent of 4.4 million stops over a 10-year period were unjustified, he said.
“This is very small evidence, a small amount of information to have such a sweeping finding,” Kelly said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “The judge has indicted the entire New York City Police Department, 35,000 officers, of racial profiling on the flimsiest of evidence.”
The city told the court on August 16 it intends to appeal Scheindlin’s ruling.
Four black men claimed in their lawsuit against the city that they had been stopped and questioned or frisked by police without reasonable suspicion in violation of their constitutional rights. At least 80 percent of the people who experience a stop-and-frisk encounter were black or Latino, according to court papers.
Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP, said the practice isn’t responsible for a drop in murders as asserted by advocates.
“The fall in homicides happened prior to 2002 and the increase in stop-and-frisk happened after 2002. So there’s no relationship between these two,” said Jealous, who also appeared on “Meet the Press.”
“Just because there are more murders in our community doesn’t mean you can treat all of us like we are guilty,” Jealous said.
Endorsement of stop-and-frisk by the city “is fundamentally inconsistent with the law of equal protection and represents a particularly disconcerting manifestation of indifference,” Scheindlin wrote in her ruling. She described each stop as a “demeaning and humiliating experience.”
Police are generally barred by law from stopping, questioning or frisking -- the act of patting a person down in a search for weapons or other contraband -- someone in the street without some level of reasonable, individualized suspicion. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police must have such suspicion of crime to justify a stop.
Scheindlin didn’t altogether ban stop-and-frisk. She appointed Peter L. Zimroth, a New York University Law professor and former corporation counsel for the city, to monitor changes in the police department. Zimroth will be responsible for developing changes, informing the city of milestones it must achieve, conducting regular progress reviews and issuing public reports every six months detailing the police department’s compliance.
Kelly said the tactic isn’t based on racial profiling but rather the characteristics of perpetrators as described by their victims.
“You should first look at the universe of people who are identified by the victims of violent crime,” Kelly said. “In New York City, that universe certainly comports to the racial makeup of the people who are being stopped.”
“I think, no question about it, violent crime will go up” if stop-and-frisk is abandoned, Kelly said.
(With assistance from Christie Smythe and Bob Van Voris in New York and Andrew Harris in Chicago)
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