New York’s 20-year reprieve from debilitating violence may well be over. Yesterday, US District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the New York Police Department has been willfully targeting blacks and Hispanics for unlawful stop, question and frisks based on their skin color alone, in violation of the Constitution.
She has appointed a federal monitor to oversee the department and to develop new policies to end its alleged practice of biased policing. If the monitor adopts Judge Scheindlin’s definition of unconstitutional policing, it is not too soon to start looking into relocation plans.
The key moment of Scheindlin’s ruling comes with her discussion of the stops performed by one of the NYPD’s most hard-working members.
During a three-month period of 2009, the high-crime Fort Greene area of Brooklyn had been experiencing a spate of robberies, burglaries and gun violence. The robbery victims described their assailants as four to five black males between the ages of 14 to 19; the burglary victims reported the suspect as a Hispanic male between 5’8’’ and 5’9’’, in his 30s; and the shooting suspect was described as a black male in his 20s.
During that same period, Officer Edgar Gonzalez of Brooklyn’s 88th Precinct conducted 134 stops, 128 of which had black or Hispanic subjects. That stop ratio is consistent not only with the specific crime patterns then afflicting Fort Greene but also with the overall rate of crime in Gonzalez’s precinct. Blacks and Hispanics commit nearly 99 percent of all violent crime in the 88th Precinct and over 93 percent of all crime.
Scheindlin, however, apparently believes that population ratios are the proper benchmark for measuring the legality of stop activity. She points out that Gonzalez’s racial stop rate “far exceeds the percentage of blacks and Hispanics in the local population (60 percent).”
In other words, though whites and Asians commit less than 1 percent of violent crime in the 88th Precinct and less than 6 percent of all crime, according to Scheindlin 40 percent of all stops should be of whites and Asians, to match their representation in the local population.
Never mind that the suspect descriptions that Gonzalez was working off of gave blacks and Hispanics as robbery, burglary and shooting suspects. To avoid an accusation of racial profiling, he should have stopped whites and Asians for crimes committed — according to their victims — exclusively by blacks and Hispanics.
Of course, just because crime victims identify blacks and Hispanics as their assailants doesn’t mean that race should be the primary determinant of who gets stopped — and there is no indication that it is. Thousands of blacks and Hispanics live in Fort Greene; Gonzalez stopped only an infinitesimal proportion of them based on their behavior and local crime information — for example, that they appeared to be casing a victim or burglary target at a time of day and location consistent with the crime patterns then under way.
But it is preposterous to maintain, as Scheindlin does, that when race is included in a suspect description for a particular set of crimes, however generalized, it may not form the outer parameter of who gets stopped for those crimes.
The rest of Scheindlin’s opinion is equally blind to the realities of New York crime and policing. She evinces little understanding of what it means to live in a high-crime neighborhood, where youths congregating on the corner can be the prelude to gun violence or a street rampage. She has accepted at face value the most far-fetched evidence against the NYPD, such as state Sen. Eric Adams’ absurd and uncorroborated accusations against Commissioner Ray Kelly. She has potentially restricted the NYPD’s ability to monitor the performance of its commanders and officers and to make sure that they are actually working to keep the city safe.
The result is not only an insult to the most effective, professionally run department in the country. It may also signal the end of the freedom from fear that New York’s most vulnerable residents have enjoyed for two decades.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/ignoring_the_realities_of_nyc_crime_cA7WAv4IMhnKAh97r9kWLM