Leaders Clash On Stop And Frisk Ruling

BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
Staff Writer

Last week, a Federal Appeals court blocked a judge’s ruling that found the NYPD’s Stop, Question and Frisk policy wrongfully discriminated against minorities. While some elected officials applauded the appeal, others have been vocal about their objections.

On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said Judge Shira Scheindlin “ran afoul” of requirements that judges avoid.

The panel found that Scheindlin violated the code of conduct and cited comments in at least three media interviews while the decision was pending. As a result, the panel unanimously decided that her comments jeopardized the merit of the case and removed her from the case.

In August, Scheindlin ruled that the Stop and Frisk has been systematically and unfairly targeting minorities, violating their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures and their 14th Amendment rights, which guarantee equal protection.

To remedy the issue, Scheindlin planned to install attorney and former Manhattan prosecutor, Peter Zimroth, to ensure the NYPD will comply with the new ruling. But her orders for reform are now placed on hold and the future of the controversial policy hangs in the balance.

“I think the ruling was a travesty,” said State Sen. James Sanders (D-Jamaica). “It’s a setback. Why the [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg administration wants to go out with a legacy of unconstitutional measures, I don’t know – it’s not the wisest move. You have to know when you’re wrong.”

Laurelton attorney Jacques Leandre, whose law office has seen close to 100 clients who have been searched and not given a summons, said the block is a minor setback but believes that ultimately, justice will prevail.

“Eventually, I believe the higher courts will uphold the decision of Judge Scheindlin because I think that decision was landmark,” Leandre said. “In the face of statistics and in the face of testimony that was provided, we believe that any jury will determine the decision was Judge Scheindlin was fair and right for New York City.”

But not all leaders are disappointed with the ruling. Bloomberg, who originally blasted Scheindlin’s ruling by claiming she “ignored the real-world realities of crime,” hailed the decision while speaking on his weekly radio show last Friday.

“We were very satisfied with the ruling,” Bloomberg said. “It speaks for itself. It says that, basically, Commissioner Kelly can run the department the way he has been running it with my approval and support for the last 12 years.”

Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) similarly hailed the block, but expressed concern for the ‘harm’ that has already been caused as a result of the lower court’s ruling. He noted that Scheindlin’s decision weighed heavily on his failed bid for Queens Borough President, giving his opponent ammunition to attack his views on the policy.

“She [Scheindlin] made a very bad decision which maligned the entire NYPD…and just a few weeks before the Primary, which obviously affected [the outcome of] the election,” Vallone said. “When a judge makes an unsupported claim like she did, it affects the City as a whole, it affects the NYPD and it affects the political landscape.”

Although it is not guaranteed that Stop and Frisk will be axed once Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio takes office in January, while on the campaign trail, he released a statement condemning the block, suggesting he will likely put an end to the City’s appeal.

“I’m extremely disappointed in today’s decision.  We shouldn’t have to wait for reforms that both keep our communities safe and obey the Constitution,” de Blasio said in the statement. “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.”

Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or nkozikowska@queenspress.com or @nkozikowska.