For over a decade, New Yorkers from all walks of life have brought this to Mayor Bloomberg's attention time and time again: the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices are not only racially biased and harmful to communities, they are also ineffective. A new report by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman echoes these concerns and the findings of a federal court in August, and urges a dialogue "about how to fight crime without overburdening our institutions or violating equal justice under the law."
This much-needed dialogue between the police department and affected community members is precisely what the joint remedial process ordered in our lawsuit Floyd v. City of New York in August is meant to accomplish. Despite wide support from community and City Council members, legal scholars, law enforcement experts, and Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, the lame-duck Bloomberg Administration has been fighting it every step of the way.
The administration's latest effort would have a three-judge panel from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals annul Judge Scheindlin's 198-page ruling from August, which followed a nine-week public trial that included testimony from over one hundred witnesses and nearly 10,000 pages of evidence. Given the panel's unprecedented and unwarranted decision to remove Scheindlin from the case, the administration's lawyers are betting heavily that the panel will double down before Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio can change course.
With all the distraction caused by the City's eleventh-hour attempt to undo the stop and frisk trial, Attorney General Schneiderman's report does a good job refocusing attention on the fact that for all the harm it does to minority communities, the NYPD's stop and frisk program nets very few convictions of any kind. According to the report, 0.1% of 2.4 million stops and frisks from 2009 to 2012 led to convictions for violent crime. Similarly, only 0.1% of all those stops led to recovery of a weapon. Given this, it is no surprise that NYC's crime rate continues to drop even as stop and frisks in the city have plummeted 80 percent in recent months.
The attorney general's report also stresses the collateral consequences that stem from these interactions, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the case, including "threats of a possible loss of employment, housing, student loans, and immigration status, even for those charged with misdemeanors." The report notes that the need to avoid some of these consequences, even if the arrest was unlawful, also "creates an incentive for SQF arrestees to plead guilty." Our report Stop and Frisk: The Human Impact documents the range of emotional, psychological, social, and economic impacts on peoples' lives after stops, and includes testimonies from New Yorkers like Michael who took guilty pleas to avoid facing more time swept up in the criminal justice system.
Attorney General Schneiderman's report adds to the body of evidence showing that Mayor Bloomberg is simply wrong in asserting that stop and frisk is an effective crime-fighting tactic. What else will it take for him to realize that community safety and respect for New Yorkers' constitutional rights are perfectly compatible?