In New York, Stop and Frisk Is Being Reformed, Perhaps Not Overnight

Mayor Bill de Blasio has followed up on his campaign promises to reform stop and frisk, but there remains some resistance.

Posted: 02/13/2014 04:29 PM EST
In New York, Stop and Frisk is Being Reformed, Perhaps Not Overnight

In last year’s mayoral campaign in New York City, the stop-and-frisk policy of the police department became a central issue, with nearly every candidate for mayor pledging to reform the practice that was harshly criticized by many New Yorkers.

But now, with a new mayor that has pledged to dramatically reform the practice, expectations are running high in New York City about reducing stops of young Black and brown New Yorkers. But reforming the practice may be more complicated — and may take longer — than many might like.

“Reforming an agency that has systemically engaged in the discriminatory treatment of New Yorkers for more than a decade is a long-term undertaking,” said Joo-Hyun Kang, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform.

“Developing and implementing meaningful, lasting reforms will require that New Yorkers impacted by stop-and-frisk abuses have significant and formalized roles in the collaborative process that brings together various stakeholders to identify solutions,” she said.

Civil rights groups and others opposed to stop and frisk contend that there is a good deal of resistance among unions representing police officers to reforming the practice.

Of course, a good deal has occurred already in the process of modifying stop and frisk. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month that the city had reached an agreement with civil rights attorneys in New York that will lead to significant reforms. The agreement calls for a court-appointed monitor to oversee the police department’s reforms of stop and frisk for a three-year-period. That agreement must still be approved by a federal court.

Still, the mayor has consistently reaffirmed his commitment to diminishing the practice, which was criticized by civil rights groups and elected officials as being little more than state-sanctioned racial profiling.

Part of that process of reassuring New Yorkers of his resolve is to insist that his new police commissioner, William Bratton, shares his determination to reform the practice. Bratton’s commitment has been a concern to many elected officials and civil rights groups because of his background as police commissioner under former mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has been a defender of stop and frisk.

“In Los Angeles, where he served most recently, Bill Bratton took a police department seemingly at war with communities of color and steadily — year by year — rebuilt trust and cooperation,” de Blasio said, in a recent editorial. “And crime dropped dramatically in the process. Commissioner Bratton is focused on bringing police and community together in mutual respect." 

Nonetheless, many suggest that New Yorkers should feel confident that stop and frisk is already diminishing as part of the daily life of the city.

“You can’t eliminate it entirely because the police have to have the option of stopping people if there is legitimate suspicion,” said William C. Thompson Jr., the former New York City comptroller and a candidate for mayor last year, speaking with BET.com.

“The way it was used had led to it being misused,” Thompson said. “And I think that change is already occurring.”

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

(Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)


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