Stop-and-frisk is longstanding New York City policy. It’s blatantly racist. It targets Blacks and Latinos. It’s unconstitutional.
It violates privacy rights. In 2012 alone, nearly 700,000 people were affected. Ray Kelly was New York’s longest serving police commissioner.
He served from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2013. He lied calling stop and frisk effective. Clear evidence proves otherwise.
The vast majority of those stopped are innocent victims. They’re targeted based on race and ethnicity. They committed no crimes.
On January 30, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said:
“We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city.”
“We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.”
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) initiated a federal class action lawsuit against New York City. Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. challenged “NYPD’s practices of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop-and frisks.”
CCR called its class action New York’s “trial of the century.” It cut to the very heart of discriminatory police practices. It was “part of a larger citywide movement” to end them.
It said “(n)o court case is more important to the future of New York City.” Police accountability is long overdue. It remains to be seen what’s forthcoming.
Last August, US District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin issued a landmark decision.
Her 195-page ruling was scathing. She said NYPD “adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling.”
“The New York City Police Department (“NPPD”) made 4.4 million stops between January 2004 and June 2012.” Personal lives were wrongfully “interrupted.”
Doing so “violated their constitutional rights in two ways:
(1) they were stopped without a legal basis in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and
(2) they were targeted for stops because of their race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Scheindlin held top city and NYPD officials liable for constitutional violations. She accused them of willful indifference.
They turn a blind eye to flagrant racial discrimination, she said.
In November, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Judge Scheindlin’s ruling. They didn’t reverse it.
They ordered Floyd reassigned to a new district court judge. CCR responded, saying:
“We are dismayed that the Court of Appeals saw fit to delay the long-overdue process to remedy the NYPD’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices, and we are shocked that they cast aspersions on the professional conduct of one of the most respected members of the federal judiciary and reassigned the case.”
“The City carried out a whisper campaign against Judge Scheindlin but never once raised any legal claims of bias, even in its papers to the Court of Appeals.”
“That, unprompted, they should reassign the case from a judge deeply steeped in the issues for the last 14 years, who gave the City every opportunity to defend itself in the course of this litigation, is troubling and unprecedented.”
That was then. This is now. On January 30, CCR headlined “City of New York and Center for Constitutional Rights Announce Agreement in Landmark Stop and Frisk Case.”
“With Questions of Law Settled, Next Phase of Charting NYPD Reforms to Begin,” saying:
“After 14 years of litigation and decades of community action, plaintiffs’ counsel and Mayor” de Blasio reached agreement.
Appealing Judge Scheindlin’s ruling was withdrawn. Floyd v. NYC seeks long denied injunctive relief. At stake is ending unconstitutional racial profiling. It’s doing it once and for all.
It remains to be seen what follows. If past is prologue, hold the cheers. At Thursday’s press conference, “the focus was squarely back on reforming the police department,” said CCR.
According to its Executive Director Vincent Warren:
“Today is the beginning of a long-overdue process: the reform of the NYPD to end illegal and racially discriminatory policing.”
“For too long, communities of color have felt under siege by the police, and young Black and Latino men have disproportionately been the target.”
“We are glad to have reached an agreement with the City and commend Mayor de Blasio for promising to drop the appeal and embracing reform. We are eager to finally begin creating real change.”
CCR want a court-appointed independent monitor. Someone with impeccable civil and human rights credential. Someone to hold NYC police and administrative officials accountable.
Judge Scheindlin so-ordered. Under terms reached with city authorities, a monitor will be appointed. A three-year term will be served.
At stake is New York “substantially complying with the remedies,” said CCR. “(T)he parties will begin the process for stakeholder input as soon as the paperwork is completed.”
Lead CCR attorney Darius Charney said:
“We look forward to working with the communities directly affected on the streets every day to come up with solutions that protect the rights of all New Yorkers.”
Plaintiffs’ co-council Johathan Moore added:
“This agreement to drop the appeal in this case vindicates the findings by judge Scheindlin and provides the opportunity for the NYPD to reform policies and practices that the district court found unconstitutional.”
“However, the agreement is only the beginning. All the parties have much work ahead to implement remedies that will bring meaningful change to the NYPD.”
It won’t happen easily. It won’t be quickly. Racism in America is embedded. It’s longstanding. It’s institutionalized. Hundreds of thousands of victimized Blacks and Latinos languish unjustly in America’s gulag. They comprise two-thirds of America’s 2.4 million prison population.
Most are nonviolent. Many committed no crimes. Many others committed offenses too small to matter. Just societies call misdemeanors. Minor at most penalties follow. Imprisonment is verboten.
Not in America. Criminal injustice reflects longstanding policy. America’s most vulnerable are victimized by judicial unfairness, get tough on crime measures , three strikes and you’re out, mandatory minimums, racist drug laws, and guilt by accusation.
Long-term imprisonment is commonplace. Harsh conditions persist. In her book titled “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Michelle Alexander discussed it, saying:
“Any movement to end mass incarceration must deal with (it) as a racial caste system, not (a method) of crime control.”
“We need an effective system of crime prevention and control in our communities, but that is not what the current system is.”
“(It’s) better designed to create crime, and a perpetual class of people labeled criminals, rather than to eliminate crime or reduce the number of criminals.”
New York’s 1973 Rockefeller drug laws are ruthlessly pernicious. Anyone convicted of selling two ounces or more of heroin, morphine, “raw or prepared opium,” cocaine, or cannabis faces mandatory 15-year sentences.
Longer-term ones range up to life in prison. Possessing four ounces of these substances mandates the same sentences.
America’s war on drugs has nothing to do with crime control. It targets people of color. It’s filling prison beds.
It’s Jim Crow writ large. It’s fundamentally about control. “Racial caste is alive and well in America,” says Alexander.
Justice is color-coded, not blind. More Blacks are imprisoned, on probation, or parole than were enslaved in pre-Civil War days.
More are disenfranchised than before 15th Amendment rights prohibited voting based on race.
Black children are less likely to be raised by both parents than during slavery days. Mass imprisoning Black fathers bears much responsibility.
One in three Black males spends some portion of their lives in prison. Many are considered felons for life. In Chicago, it’s nearly 80%.
A permanent underclass exists. Fundamental rights are denied. They include disenfranchisement, exclusion from juries, loss of public benefits, and compromised access to education and proper healthcare.
In 1971, Nixon declared war on drugs. He did so to shift focus. He wanted attention off his disastrous Southeast Asian war. He wanted the subject changed.
He made so-called drug abuse a federal crime. He instituted mandatory sentencing. He got no-knock warrants authorized.
He filled prison beds. He began destroying a generation of Black and Latino male youths. Reagan continued where he left off. “Just Say No” instituted zero tolerance.
Incarceration numbers skyrocketed. They jumped from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 in 1997. Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately targeted. They still are.
Democrats compete with Republicans. They’re out to prove who’s tougher. Clinton boasted about no one able to call him “soft on crime.”
His policies increased America’s prison population hugely. He exceeded all presidents in US history.
He waged war on Black America. He targeted Latinos the same way. He banned convicted drug felons from public housing. He denied them food stamps for life.
Jim Crow never died. It thrives. All decades earlier civil rights gains were lost. They were shaky to begin with. They were more myth than reality.
Conditions today are worse than when MLK was assassinated. His dream was a convenient illusion.
Caste system inequality is institutionalized. It’s a longstanding racial nightmare. Will New York cops turn a new leaf?
Will hardcore commanders order it? Will they enforce it? Will Mayor de Blasio? Will other city authorities? Will their counterparts across America?
Will Blacks and Latinos be treated fairly? They never were before. It takes a giant leap of faith to expect change.
It’s hard believing a new dawn in New York. It’s hard believing it anywhere across America.
It’s hard believing MLK’s dream coming true. Maybe some day little boys and girls of all colors will grow up to be brothers and sisters. Maybe some day those of color will be “free at last.”
Maybe everyone will enjoy rights being systematically destroyed. Maybe America will be fit to live in. Another world is possible. It’s worth going all out to achieve.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.