NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed Monday that his cops will go where the crime is, not follow a census chart — lashing out at a federal judge’s ruling that a controversial NYPD tactic known as “stop and frisk” amounts to racial profiling.
Five months before he ends a 12-year term in which murders have fallen by half, the mayor warned: “Crime can come back anytime the criminals think that they’re going to get away with things. We just cannot let that happen.”
The judge, Shira Scheindlin of Manhattan federal court, ruled that the way “stop and frisk” is carried out violates the constitutional rights of blacks and Hispanics. She cited the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Scheindlin found that the police used the tactic, under which they stop and pat down people they deem suspicious, 4.4 million times between 2004 and 2012, and that 80 percent of the stops were of blacks and Hispanics.
She called it “indirect racial profiling.”
“The City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” the judge wrote.
“In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting ‘the right people’ is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution,” she added.
The judge appointed an outside lawyer to oversee changes to the program and issue regular public reports. She also ordered a trial program in which officers would wear cameras in one precinct in each of New York’s five boroughs to record their encounters with civilians.
The city vowed to take the matter to a federal appeals court, and to the Supreme Court if necessary.
“Our police officers follow the law and follow the crime,” Bloomberg said from City Hall on Monday afternoon. “They fight crime wherever crime is occurring. And they don’t worry if their work doesn’t match up to a census chart.”
Bloomberg and Kelly ticked off statistics on violent crime and said that those crimes are committed disproportionately in low-income, black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
But that is a separate problem for society to face, Bloomberg said, and he added that his administration has a strong record on social services.
Calling the judge’s ruling dangerous, and blind to the realities of police, Bloomberg reminded reporters that there have been 7,300 fewer murders in his first 11-plus years as mayor than in the same period of time before he took office.
Kelly added: “Those lives that were saved were overwhelmingly the lives of young men of color.”
The judge pointedly did not order an end to the tactic. The Supreme Court ruled, in a 1968 case from Ohio, that police have the authority, in certain circumstances, to stop and frisk people they deem suspicious.
But Scheindlin noted that the overwhelming majority of stops in New York — 88 percent — result in no arrests or tickets.
She emphasized that she was making no ruling about the effectiveness of the tactic in fighting crime, only its constitutionality. Scheindlin said she was trying to make sure that it was carried out in a way that protects the liberties and rights of New Yorkers.
Bloomberg said the program needs to proceed without what he called micromanaging and second-guessing.
Kelly said that 97 percent of New York City shooting victims last year where black or Hispanic and in low-income neighborhoods. Bloomberg said that “stop and frisk” has taken 8,000 guns and 80,000 other weapons off the streets.
Asked whether the appeal might stretch into next year, and whether “stop and frisk” might therefore continue as is until the next mayor takes office, Bloomberg answered: “Boy, I hope so. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a lot of people dying.”
Four men had sued the city, saying that they were unfairly targeted by police.
The New York Civil Liberties Union hailed the appointment of a federal monitor and said that the judge had noticed a victory for fair policing by the country’s largest police force.
“This marks the beginning of a top-to-bottom revamping of stop-and-frisk,” said Christopher Dunn, the organization’s associate legal director.
First published August 12 2013, 12:51 PM