Judge Scheindlin Speaks Truth To Power: Stop-and-Frisk Is Racist And Unconstitutional
Scheindlin: America's most honest judge? Rejected Bloomberg's Black bogeyman fear-mongering
[Speaking Truth To Power]
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin decided what we already knew: that the New York Police Derpartment racially profiles Black New Yorkers and targets them in a manner that routinely violates their constitutional rights.
Will this ruling spur the Eric Holder Justice Department to vigorously monitor the future actions of the NYPD with regards to how communities of color are policed as the attorney general had earlier announced that the department would do?
Judge Scheindlin ruled against the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg in the Floyd v City of New York federal class-action lawsuit that has been a lighting-rod for those opposed to racial police profiling and the use of the police ploy known as Stop-and-Frisk. The judge stated it was clear the NYPD utilized “a policy of indirect racial profiling” where officers customarily stopped “Blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were White.”
Judge Scheindlin noted that “in practice” the Stop-and-Frisk “policy encourages the targeting of young Black and Hispanic residents based on their prevalence in local crime complaints” and that “This is so even in areas with low crime rates, racially heterogeneous populations, or predominately White populations.” In her words: “This is a form of racial profiling.”
Since implementation of Stop-and-Frisk, a decade ago, around 5 million people have been stopped—the vast majority of them Blacks and Latinos. And out of every 10 stops, of Blacks or Latinos, roughly one is given a summons or arrested. The Floyd Case was filed by four African-American males in 2008. The lawsuit was the result of 14 years of litigation against the NYPD’s use of Stop-and-Frisk.
In her ruling, Judge Scheindlin called for federal monitoring of the NYPD—and named Peter Zimroth, a former prosecutor and corporate lawyer, to oversee that the NYPD starts complying with respecting the constitutional rights of Blacks and Latinos. She ordered other remedies including a pilot program where patrol officers would wear body cameras to record stops in at least five precincts. The judge also called for a “joint remedial process” to engage with the community and get constructive feedback on how to reform the NYPD.
Not surprisingly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly reacted angrily to Judge Scheindlin’s ruling. “This is a dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the US Constitution as determined by the Supreme Court,” Bloomberg said. “I worry for my kids, and I worry for your kids. I worry for you and I worry for me. Crime can come back any time the criminals think they can get away with things.”
Commissioner Kelly also voiced his displeasure with the judge’s decision. “What I find most disturbing and offensive about this decision is the notion that the NYPD engages in racial profiling,” said Mr. Kelly. "That simply is recklessly untrue. We do not engage in racial profiling."
Since when has a racial profiler admitted to engaging in racial profiling?
Some people just can’t stop lying. Besides all the protestations to the contrary, the NYPD’s use of Stop-and-Frisk is clearly race-based. Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg can try as much as they like to contort the facts to suit their fanciful fables, but, there is no doubt their NYPD strategy has been one that has targeted African-Americans and Latinos.
Judge Scheindlin's judgment upheld what every Black male in New York City already knows: that their skin color makes them definite targets for criminal suspicion, spurious arrests, and possibly wrongful lethal engagement by the police.
But this case has also revealed another troubling aspect of the NYPD attacks on Blacks: making phony arrests to maintain quotas or “performance goals.” The recordings made by NYPD Officers Pedro Serrano, Adhyl Polanco, and Adrian Schoolcraft are proof positive that a quota system against Blacks is indeed very real.
Here the issue of economics and crime can’t be ignored. Mayor Bloomberg in his comments talks a lot about controlling crime in Black and Latino neighborhoods and he pretends to care about the people in these communities.
If this is so, why, in three terms as mayor, hasn’t he done one damn thing to alleviate the economic mayhem that breeds the majority of crime in these communities? He always boasts about diminishing crime stats -- what has he done to decrease the perpetually high rate of unemployment among young Black men? What community development programs has he launched? What has he done to draw and encourage investment capital into these neighborhoods?
Recently, the mayor scolded former Governor Eliot Spitzer for touting the fact that he is one of the only people in government that tried to police Wall Street's criminality. The mayor wants to take credit for reducing crime in New York City. But why hasn’t he done one blooming thing to track down those who committed the largest robbery in world history? If he’s such a champion against crime isn’t he mortified that, as mayor during this period, he did absolutely nothing to bring any of these Wall Street offenders to justice while he gives poor minority communities lip-service about fighting crime?
What example does it set when a mayor talks about reducing crime and protecting the “rule of law” but is quite satisfied with letting wealthy Wall Street criminal louts swindle more wealth from middle-class and working people in America? Perhaps because he hangs around the circle of the rich he doesn't consider these types to be "real" criminals?
Keep in mind, according to an Urban Institute study of the 2007-2009 recession, “between 2007 and 2010 Hispanic families saw their wealth cut by over 40 percent, and Black families saw their wealth fall by 31 percent." And according to a study by United For a Fair Economy, the sub-prime Wall Street swindle cost “people of color between $164 billion and $213 billion for sub-prime loans" and it concluded: "We believe this represents the greatest loss of wealth for people of color in modern U.S. history.”
Again, it must be stated that the unacceptable level of crime in communities of color are primarily driven by economic racism. Some like to talk about the need to stop those dealing drugs and such in the neighborhoods. But why don’t they want to talk about the unemployment and underemployment—underpinned by institutional racism—that creates the economic anxiety that leads many to deal drugs to make money to begin with?
Also think logically for a minute. Do you see any open fields in the economically-depressed neighborhoods where these drugs are produced? How many times do you see the out-of-town consumers who come to purchase the drugs being shown on the evening news?
Martin Luther King once said “To deny a man a job is to say that a man has no right to exist.” The unemployment rate for Blacks is nearly double the national figure. The unemployment rate for African-Americans stays consistently high even in times of relative prosperity. The truth here is: White America continues to heap insult upon injury against the African-American community by engaging in economic warfare to keep the offspring of the African slaves who made this country a superpower economically weak. Why won't the large corporate media outlets focus on these stories?
Is this billionaire mayor—founder of Bloomberg Business News—telling us he doesn’t understand that these awful economic realities are the origin of the crime problems in Black and Latino communities? Or, is it that he lacks the moral fiber and necessary compassion, like far too many of these political charlatans, to honestly speak on these societally-created scourges?
He’s sure good at engaging in fear-mongering with the nonsensical claim that Stop-and-Frisk somehow reduces crime and that New York City will turn into a Wild West without it. Statistics show crime, nationally, was on the decline before the implementation of this odiously racist tactic. Stop-and-Frisk declined dramatically last year and crime continued to fall.
At any rate, Mayor Bloomberg’s time in office is thankfully coming to an end.
The mayoral race has seen the surge of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio into the lead. Besides New York City Comptroller John Liu, de Blasio is the only other candidate who took a stand against the way NYPD uses Stop-and-Frisk to racially profile Blacks and Latinos.
Our people must continue to push politicians in City Hall, and in Albany and Washington, D.C., to redress these problems that confront our people. Attorney General Eric Holder must use the full weight of the Justice Department to monitor the NYPD’s police profiling policies.
Hopefully one day economic neglect of depressed neighborhoods will one day be recognized as the crime it is.