New York City mayoral candidate Bill Thompson (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)
One day after a federal judge ruled that the New York City Police Department’s stop and frisk program violated the rights of African-American and Latino residents, civil rights groups, elected officials and prominent New Yorkers have hailed the decision as a landmark ruling that will help curb discriminatory policing.
“The present stop and frisk policy violates the constitutional rights of all New Yorkers, but especially innocent blacks and Latinos,” said William C. Thompson Jr., a former New York City comptroller and only African-American candidate in this year’s mayoral election.
The most notable exception from the chorus of support for the ruling has been New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who made stop and frisk a hallmark of his crime-fighting strategy. The mayor has long contended that the initiative was instrumental in cutting crime and reducing the number of murders in the city’s five boroughs.
Bloomberg reacted strongly to the ruling by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, saying the decision prevented the city from having “a fair trial” on stop and frisk and vowed that the city will file an appeal.
“You’re not going to see any change in tactics overnight,” Bloomberg said, adding that he would like to keep the current practice in place until the end of his administration, on December 31. “I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a lot of people dying,” the mayor said.
Despite the mayor’s position, there were a vast number of people and organizations who cheered Judge Scheindlin’s decision.
New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams said the ruling was based on the fact that the police department “has abused its stop-and-frisk program in conducting unconstitutional frisks and searches of young men of more color.” Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat who has been a longstanding critic of stop and frisk, added that ”by the Bloomberg administration's own data, the policy has been extremely ineffective."
In a statement, Communities Untied for Police Reform, a community based group, called the ruling a “victory for civil and constitutional rights and the safety of New Yorkers.”
The organization took particular aim at the Bloomberg administration saying its “discriminatory policing practices and failure to adequately understand the problems they create, have brought us to this point and we are pleased that justice has prevailed.”
Like several other candidates for mayor this year, Thompson said he was determined to make changes in the stop and frisk initiative if elected.
“Instead of treating our police and people with respect, the mayor and Commissioner Kelly have imposed what are effectively quotas on the police and treated entire minority communities with suspicion,” Thompson said.
“I will uphold the law and work with the federal monitor to make sure New Yorkers never have to choose between their constitutional rights and their safety. I will ensure the court's decision fulfills its objective — a New York where everyone is protected by the law.”
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