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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Stop and Frisk Appeal is Anti-Civil Rights

Nickie Phillips

Mayor Bloomberg just doesn't get it

graphic: ACLU

The judgment in Floyd v. City of New York this week was a victory for the countless New Yorkers of color who over the years have been subject to illegal stops and frisks. As Crimcast has previously written, the case was mired in statistics as to the alleged effectiveness of stop and frisk as a police tool.  Judge Sheindlin, however, made clear that statistical arguments were peripheral to the main issue, the constitutionality of the stops. She explained that stop and frisk, as practiced by the NYPD, through a lack of a required, individualized notion of reasonable suspicion -- such as simply being in a designated high crime area-- indirectly generates unconstitutional stops and frisks that people of color are much more likely to experience.  We applaud her for refusing to let a false notion of increasing public safety through stop and frisk (see this report from John Jay College, Center on Race, Crime, and Justice) erode important Constitutional rights.  She has imposed increased oversight over the practice of stop and frisk and a better articulated reporting of the circumstances that factor into individual stops and frisks.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg refuses to accept the judgment, arguing that the stop and frisk as practiced is a needed part of the city's crime-fighting arsenal and that the practice does not constitute racial profiling, directly or indirectly.  The city will file an appeal, apparently unwilling to take to heart the lived experience of many of its own citizens of color.

As Prof. Delores Jones-Brown points out in her blog post on The Crime Report:

In this, the 50th year, of the March on Washington, when thousands of Americans joined with African Americans to affirm their rights as full-citizens of the United States, especially their right to freely use public space, it is tremendously disheartening to see that in a city as diverse as New York  with the largest and most respected police force,  these high level public officials fail to yield to overwhelming evidence that a decade-long practice, however  well-intentioned,  has deprived many law-abiding New Yorkers of the very rights that were adamantly fought for a half century ago.

photo (3)

Crimcast senses that a new civil rights era is galvanizing to pave the road ahead.  With the controversy around this and the recent George Zimmerman trial, we see that the forces that would take the civil rights era backwards need constant checking by people who value the principle of equality for all.  Judge Sheindlin takes us forward, the jury in the ZImmerman case and Mayor Bloomberg would take us backwards, but the crowds expected at the anniversary March on Washington event on August 24, 2013, will no doubt show which direction Americans want to go.