November 14, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – Public Advocate-elect Letitia James – one third of the progressive triumvirate assuming the levers of city power following this month’s groundbreaking general election – says that the judge who ruled against the NYPD’s entrenched stop & frisk policy and was subsequently booted off the case, needs to be reinstated. Watch Video
“We need to stand up for Judge Scheindlin and we need to make sure that this decision is reversed by the Court of Appeals and they restore her and assign the case back to her,” James told a forum on reforming the police held in Ft. Greene Tuesday night.
Last summer, Judge Shira Scheindlin found that the NPYD's widely despised tactic of targeting minorities for stop & frisk, trampled the civil rights of citizens and ordered a special monitor to help reform the practice.
A panel of three judges, however, later stayed those findings upon further appeal last month, and the outgoing Bloomberg administration is now pressing to make sure the turnaround sticks.
But James called Judge Scheindlin a “profile in courage,” and said that the public actually owes the jurist a big “Thank you.”
“What you did was right and consistent with the law,” James said.
Chauniqua Young, a Center for Constitutional Rights attorney who was part of the federal class action lawsuit filed against the NYPD's stop & frisk policy, said that Judge Scheindlin applied the law fairly, and that all eyes will now be on Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.
“We have a lot of hope for his administration," Young said. "But we need the remedies that Judge Scheindlin ordered to really ensure that changes happen and we won’t be litigating this case in another five years."
Contrary to current Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s claims that the NYPD’s official stop & frisk policy is “saving lives,” activist Kevin Powell, president of BK Nation, said that the brass’ penchant for targeting working class Black and Latino men is nothing short of racism in its most undiluted form.
“It is a system of racism that is rooted in power,” Powell said. “And if we don’t think so, look at what happened in August when the judge ruled that this was a violation of 4th and 14th Amendment rights of Black and Latino brothers in New York City. And just two months later, the all-boy network stepped in, and not only got rid of the judge – they froze the decision.”
The number of stop & frisk actions in New York City has reportedly exploded 600-percent in the post-9/11 years. But in the view of its opponents, it has had little if any effect on actual crime, while clearly inflicting great harm on the law-abiding public.
Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project, said that beat cops are under enormous pressure to carry out the stops under a strict quota system.
“The most significant change that Bill de Blasio and Letitia James and the City Council leadership can promote is the abolition of the quota system,” Gangi said. “The NYPD brass claims that they don’t have a quota system – they have what are called ‘productivity goals.’ In fact, they do have a quota system. If cops don’t arrest a certain number of people in a given month, ticket a certain number of people in a given month, stop & frisk a certain number of people in a given month – they will be penalized. They will lose their vacation pay. They will be transferred to a different and less desirable post. Sometimes they will be demoted. Sometimes, they will be fired.”
Joan Gibbs, lead counsel with the Center for Law and Social Justice, argued that stop & frisk is part of a much broader endeavor “pushing out Black, Latino, working class and poor people from the city.”
“Earlier this month we had an election, but just voting for people is not enough,” Gibbs said. “We have to hold people accountable. We have to build a citywide movement that not only takes up the issue of stop & frisk, but also issues of affordable housing and lack of jobs.”
Mayor-elect de Blasio is expected to announce his pick for top cop shortly. The next mayor's supporters say that de Blasio not only needs to appoint a new police commissioner that “totally buys into a reorientation of policing approaches in New York City” – he also needs to “scoop out” many of the officials currently occupying the top echelons of NYPD power, as well.
Those interested in contributing to the dialogue are encouraged to visit the “Talking Transitions” tent erected at Canal and Varick streets on November 18, from 6 to 8 p.m.