The signature crime-fighting strategy of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly suffered a major setback Monday with a federal court’s ruling that police use of stop-and-frisk tactics violated the constitutional rights of New Yorkers.
In an interview with Jansing & Co.’s Richard Lui, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York likened the balancing act presented by the practice of stop-and-frisk to the issues around the NSA domestic surveillance program made public recently by leaker Edward Snowden.
“It's sort of like what we are fighting in Congress, whether or not you want surveillance but you don't want too much,” said Engel, a Democrat who represents a district in the Bronx. “You don't want it to be too intrusive.”
In her 195-page decision issued Monday, Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that police crossed the line into intrusive, unwarranted and unconstitutional stops. She wrote that, based on testimony and NYPD data on the practice, police officers have been systematically stopping—and in more than half the cases, searching—innocent people in the streets without any reasonable cause to suspect them of wrongdoing. The judge found that young minority men are disproportionately targeted for stops, and for searches for weapons and drug paraphernalia.
Engel said he is wasn’t surprised by the judge’s ruling but believes that striking the right balance between public safety and personal liberty is tough.
“Stop-and-frisk has been intrusive and obviously the judge has ruled that way. It's a balance to try to get crime down but, at the same time, protecting people’s civil liberties,” Engel added.
Judge Scheindlin ordered broad reforms to NYPD practices and sought an independent monitor to ensure police compliance with her orders and U.S. constitutional protections.