New York City had started to adjust to the reality that the stop-and-frisk policies of the city’s police department were on their way out the door. The practice had been denounced by nearly every major politician running for city office this year. But its fate seemed sealed after a federal judge ruled that the practice stopping hundreds of thousands of innocent Black and brown people violated their constitutional rights.
Stop-and-frisk seemed headed for a place in the sunset after Judge Shira Scheindlin established a set of strong reforms for the police department, including the appointment of a monitor to oversee how the law enforcement agency dealt with the issue.
Everyone seemed pleased – except for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has been an outspoken champion of this controversial practice and who wanted the reforms delayed. But the mayor’s displeasure seemed to matter less and less, since his last day in office comes in less than two months.
Then came Thursday’s decision by an appeals court that blocked the reforms ruling. Critics of stop and frisk were deflated because the widely-hailed reforms were now put on hold. There was a good deal of gloom among some, who eagerly awaited the day when the air would be let out of the stop- and-frisk tire.
But Letitia James, a Brooklyn city councilwoman, put the matter in its proper perspective.
“I think the opponents support of stop-and-frisk are celebrating prematurely,” said James, who is also the Democratic Party nominee for New York City Public Advocate.
“This decision was a procedural setback,” she said, in an interview with BET.com. “And the overwhelming evidence is that, when it’s heard by another judge, it will result in the conclusion that the policy is unconstitutional and an illegal violation of the rights of citizens.”
The fact is that the appeals court took issue with some aspects of Judge Scheindlin’s handling of the case that did not speak to the merits of her decision.
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit concluded that Judge Scheindlin “ran afoul” of the code of conduct of judges and courts by placing into question “appearance of impartiality surrounding this litigation.”
But in the end, stop-and-frisk will be greatly reformed if not eliminated, and it will not take long. For one thing, New York will elect a new mayor on Tuesday who will take office January 1. Since Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee, is leading in the polls over his Republican rival, Joseph Lhota, by more than 40 percentage points, it’s likely that the de Blasio’s strong voiced opposition to stop-and-frisk will have an impact once he presides over the city’s government – including the police department.
So, opponents of this horrendous stop-and-frisk policy take heart: The end is in sight, and it won’t take long.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)