United States Court of Appeals Delays Stop and Frisk Reform

Earlier today the United States federal court of appeals blocked Judge Shira A. Scheidlin’s decision regarding New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy. Scheidlin’s ruling called for oversight and reform of the NYPD as well as stated that the NYPD had violated constitutional rights of individuals being stopped and searched.

Reforms to the NYPD will now be delayed pending the outcome of the city’s appeal in addition to Scheidlin’s removal from the case. The appeals court justified its decision regarding Scheidlin’s removal by citing that she was no longer an unbiased party. The court referenced her many media interviews and public statements regarding the stop-and-frisk case. Many of these interviews were given in response to public attacks from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Chief of Police Ray Kelly. Despite declining to testify in court, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Chief Kelly publicly criticized Scheidlin for “being in the corner” of civil liberties activists as well as being anti-law enforcement.

Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor of New York expires in December, meaning that the continuation of the appeals court’s ruling depends on the election this Tuesday. Current polls show Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio leading in the polls by 39 points. De Blasio has made the stop-and-frisk issue central to his campaign, saying that he would drop all appeals regarding Scheidlin’s decision.

In a statement, de Blasio emphasized that, “[We] have to end the overuse of stop and frisk—and any delay only means a continued and unnecessary rift between our police and the people they protect.” De Blasio’s Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, responded by saying that the city’s next mayor must push forward with the appeal.

In 2012, police reportedly stopped and frisked over 500,000 people on the streets of New York. This number has risen exponentially from the 115,000 people searched in 2002, according to lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights. It is estimated that about 87% of individuals searched were black or Hispanic. In perhaps half of the cases police simply asked questions, but in other cases NYPD performed a bag check or even a full pat down.

The stop-and-frisk policy only exacerbates a system of racial control in a country still struggling for equality. This policy adopted by NYPD is no better than old Jim Crow laws—the only difference is that America should know better by now.