Is stop-and-frisk gone for good?
Some New Yorkers may be wondering whether today’s federal court ruling declaring stop-and-frisk unconstitutional and discriminatory means a ban on the controversial police practice.
That is not the case, according to Baher Azmy, the legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the suit against the city.
“The court makes clear that stop-and-frisk can be a valid law enforcement tool and this in no way prohibits using stop-and-frisk under existing constitutional guidelines,” Azmy explained.
From the start, the lawsuit was not attacking the practice itself: it was specifically pushing for a change in how the NYPD carries out stop-and-frisk.
The court-appointed monitor called for in the judge’s ruling will “oversee a number of reforms that will bring the practice into compliance with the Constitution,” Azmy said.
The reforms will touch on the training of officers, the supervision of officers, the documentation of stops and “other standards of police accountability practices that have been used in dozens of other places.”
Azmy poked holes in the mayor’s assertion that “no federal judge has ever imposed a monitor over a city’s police department following a civil trial.”
Bloomberg also argued that the Department of Justice under the current and past two presidents “never, not once, found reason to investigate the NYPD.”
But the Department of Justice did find reason, following the stop-and-frisk trial, to file a Statement of Interest in the case, in which the DOJ outlined the many other cities and states where a federal monitor has facilitated police reform. In the statement filed exactly two months ago, the DOJ asked the judge to consider mandating a federal monitor over the NYPD in her ruling.
“The mayor mistakes hyperbole for analysis,” Azmy said dryly.
Azmy shrugged off the mayor’s specification of “following a civil trial,” explaining that in other cases in other states and cities, the trial is often brought by the Justice Department, which then finds cause for a monitor to oversee reform of a police department.
“If anything, this is more through because it’s after nine weeks of evidence,” Azmy said, “instead of an investigation by some lawyers at the Justice Department.”
“If anything, this is a sounder process,” he added.
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