On Monday, Judge Shira Scheindlin made the landmark ruling that stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional, citing the violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment. Today, the city plans to appeal her decision, marking the first blow in what promises to be a lengthy legal battle over the city's most prominent policing tactic.
Opinion is already divided on whether stop-and-frisk, which many say overwhelmingly targets young black and Latino men, is a worthwhile crime fighting tool. Mayor Bloomberg credits stop and frisk for bringing the city's crime to record lows, and scoffed at the suggestion the appeal would be dropped by the next mayor—which frontrunners Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson all vowed to do.
“I don't think you can assume whatever's said during a campaign has anything to do with the reality of what they finally do,” the mayor said yesterday. “Whoever wins the final election in November is going to wake up the next morning and say, ‘Oh my God - we have the lowest crime rate, murder rate we've ever had. It's continuing to go down. I'm now responsible for doing that.' And you would think that they would look at it very differently.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights—whose attorneys represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit—are bristling at the appeal:
We are very disappointed that the City has signaled it will continue to be part of the problem rather than partnering with us and the community to be part of the solution. After nine weeks of trial and solid evidence, the judge found the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutional. New Yorkers have denounced these tactics for over a decade and now the federal court has spoken. It is time for Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly to do the right thing and listen to and address these concerns. A police department that protects our city and respects the rights of all New Yorkers is possible.
However, a source with knowledge of the proceedings said there is little ground for the appeal, adding that Scheindlin "is an extremely strong judge who is very, very rarely reversed."
In a two-part, 234-page decision [PDF], Judge Scheindlin explained the the ways in which the current implementation of the tactic violates the constitution. "The City acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks," Judge Scheindlin writes. "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."