New York’s Gotten a Little Too Frisky

Does New York City, the home of Lady Liberty and her promise of an acceptance of diversity, have a “deeply troubling apathy” toward its residents’ most fundamental constitutional rights? Those were the words used by judge Shira A. Scheindlin of Federal District Court in May when she granted class-action status to a lawsuit challenging the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that, “The inescapable conclusion is that the city will eventually have to redefine its stop-and-frisk policy, legal experts say, and that the changes—whether voluntary or forced—will fundamentally alter how the police interact with young minority men on the streets.”

These changes wouldn’t affect just a few people. The Times goes on to note, “Some legal experts say the police could be pushed into reducing the numbers of street stops of New Yorkers by hundreds of thousands a year, and that the proportion of stop-and-frisk subjects who are black and Latino would be sharply reduced.”

Just last month, reported that Mayor Michael Bloomberg told The First Baptist Church of Brownsville, “a neighborhood that ranked second in the top 10 places where stop-and-frisk is implemented,” that “the number of stop-and-frisks conducted by the NYPD would decrease ‘significantly’ this year, despite the department being on track to break last year’s record of 601,055 stops (that’s 1,900 a day).”

While it didn’t mention the mayor by name, he may have been among the “bunch of elected officials” who the New York Daily News said were “seriously, seriously irritated” yesterday by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly when he accused these officials “of being very ready to mouth off on his department’s procedures while not speaking out loudly enough about the violence in their home districts.”

The News quotes Kelly as saying, “I ask you: who are the political leadership that you talk to in these communities about a whole host of other issues that are all too willing to talk about these other issues, but are really I think shockingly silent when it comes to the level of violence right in their own communities. Many of them will speak out about stop-and-frisk, but who will speak out about the elephant in the corner, which is the inordinate level of violence that exists in many of these communities?”

So this debate will not quietly wither away in the face of any forthcoming judicial decisions. Just last weekend, 24 people were shot in the city, but a story in yesterday’s Daily News said that Governor Andrew Cuomo “did not see a ‘causal relationship’ between the spate of shootings and the [recent] controversial appellate court rulings questioning the police department’s stop and frisk tactics.”

A lot of other people will no doubt disagree with Cuomo and want to pat Ray Kelly on the back—although, perhaps not publicly. It will be interesting to see what the courts ultimately decide and just how far the city is willing to push back.

Do you think New York City’s Stop and Frisk policy reduces crime?

Lawrence Karol is a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City in a mid-century-modern-inspired apartment with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet editor, who enjoys writing about design, food, and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence