NEW YORK — The federal judge who ordered an overhaul of the New York City police department's stop-and-frisk strategy refused Tuesday to delay it pending appeal, saying it would send "precisely the wrong signal."
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan had ordered changes in August after finding the program discriminates against minorities. Police have stopped, questioned and sometimes patted down about 5 million people over a decade.
Scheindlin dismissed the idea of a delay.
"Ordering a stay now would send precisely the wrong signal," she wrote. "It would essentially confirm that the past practices, resulting in hundreds of thousands of stops – overwhelmingly of minorities – that resulted in little or no enforcement action or seizure of contraband were justified and based on constitutional police practices. It would also send the message that reducing the number of stops is somehow dangerous to the residents of this city."
Scheindlin said a decrease in the number of stops from a peak in 2011 is already due in part to her earlier orders.
The judge also criticized "certain high-level city officials and pundits" who have misinterpreted her ruling. She said she did not order an end to the stop-and-frisk program but instead insisted that it be carried out legally.
And she defended her remedies, which include the appointment of a monitor to ensure the program's legality and of a facilitator to conduct meetings with all interested parties participating in neighborhoods where frequent stops occur. She had also ordered some officers to wear cameras.
She said the vast majority of the overhaul won't be implemented until the monitor and the facilitator meet with the community, the police department and other stakeholders to create sensible solutions.
"In short, the only activity at this stage is discussion between the monitor, the facilitator and the parties to develop the remedies," she said. "No other specific relief is imminent, much less ordered."
Michael A. Cardozo, the city's top lawyer, said in a statement that the city remains committed to reversing Scheindlin's rulings as quickly as possible.
He noted that the city has asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan for an expedited appeal so police officers are not in limbo.
"We cannot afford such delay, as public safety is of paramount concern to the mayor and the police commissioner," he said.