The New York Police Department’s aggressive stop-and-frisk program may now be under scrutiny on multiple fronts. Two new bills to set limits on the city’s use of the tactic will become law, after the City Council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (I) veto of the bills. The vote is a second defeat for Bloomberg, less than two weeks after a federal court held the NYPD engages in unconstitutional racial profiling. The bills are a response not just to stop-and-frisk, but to invasive NYPD surveillance of the Muslim community.
The bills passed by the council Thursday night, aimed at racial profiling in both the stop-and-frisk program and in the NYPD’s invasive surveillance of the Muslim community, will strengthen avenues for filing racial profiling lawsuits against against the city and expand the definition of what constitutes “bias-based racial profiling” so that it now includes age, gender, sexual orientation, and the type of housing a person has. It would also create an independent inspector general tasked with monitoring the NYPD. In her ruling earlier this month, Judge Shira Scheindlin appointed a federal independent monitor. If her ruling is upheld on appeal, the NYPD will be monitored by two entities.
Among Scheindlin’s findings in her 200-page ruling were that NYPD disproportionately stops young black men and Hispanic men, even when accounting for the crime rate, considers young black and Hispanic men between the ages of 14 and 20 “the right people” for the purposes of stops, and effectively enforces “quotas” that motivate officers to complete a certain number of stops, even when they have no legal justification for particular stops.
Federal court findings notwithstanding, Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly have remained adamantly defensive of their programs as previously administered. Bloomberg called Scheindlin “some woman” who knows “absolutely zero” about policing and has maintained that her ruling invalidating only those stops that have no constitutional basis will be a “disaster for the city.” Following Thursday night’s vote, Bloomberg issued an ironic statement: “It is a dangerous piece of legislation and we will ask the courts to step in before innocent people are harmed.”