Beyond Stop and Frisk: Communities Organize for Deeper Reforms
On August 22, the New York City Council voted to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the Community Safety Act, which is composed of two bills seeking to create more levels of accountability within the New York Police Department (NYPD) and prevent discriminatory practices, such as stop-and-frisk activity, from occurring.
The Community Safety Act was passed one week after Judge Shira A. Scheindlin declared, in Floyd v. The City of New York, that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program is unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment. While we should be pleased a court ruled against the department's stop-and-frisk policy—which is said to have violated the constitutional rights of many thousands of people, almost all of them Black and Latino, with the vast majority of them not found to have violated any crime—the ruling did not go far enough to ensure people in New York are protected from being unduly harassed and violated.
But the Community Safety Act actually gives some teeth to Judge Scheindlin’s decision, and speaks to the need for community organizing to drive policy and ensure its enforcement.
In her decision, Judge Scheindlin ruled on behalf of the plaintiffs represented in the stop-and-frisk case, arguing:
[F]irst, plaintiffs showed that senior officials in the City and at the NYPD were deliberately indifferent to officers conducting unconstitutional stops and frisks; and second, plaintiffs showed that practices resulting in unconstitutional stops and frisks were sufficiently widespread that they had the force of law.
In order to be able to use the stop-and-frisk tactic in ways that are lawful, Judge Scheindlin ordered the city to bring on a federal monitor to oversee reforms, change the way stops are documented, and institute a year-long pilot program through which officers must wear cameras to record their interactions.
While many in the press declared the judge’s decision an end to stop and frisk, her decision stopped short of a full-on repeal. As long as the NYPD doesn’t use race as a blanket reason for stops, the tactic can move forward.