As the trial challenging the NYPD's stop and frisk policy plays out before Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin, Council Members Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) urged passage of the Community Safety Act, a set of bills aimed at curbing NYPD frisking of large numbers of residents, many in Brooklyn.
The act would ban profiling based on race, religion, immigration status, gender identity and other categories. It would also create an inspector general to investigate the policies and procedures of the NYPD; protect New Yorkers against unlawful searches; and require officers to identify themselves and explain why they are stopping someone.
On Tuesday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced her support for the inspector general portion of the legislation. While the extent of her support is not yet known, an aide to the speaker said the inspector general would have subpoena power, according to NY1.
"We have seen this movie before—assurances that reform is on the way, only to see the Council substitute a half-measure for true change. This time must be different,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, apparently not convinced of the Speaker's committment. In a letter to Speaker Quinn and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, de Blasio insisted than an inspector general must have "budget protection and independence" and "real oversight and investigatory powers."
NYPD officials released a statement saying in part, "No police department in America has more oversight than the NYPD," 1010 News reported.
Critics say stop and frisk is a discriminatory invasion of privacy that bedevils the lives of minorities. The NYPD, however, says stop and frisk has helped make New York City safer than it's been in decades.
The NYPD stopped almost to 700,000 people in 2011, up from more than 90,000 a decade ago. Nearly 87 percent were black or Hispanic. Four out of five precincts with the highest number of stops were in Brooklyn.
According to the statistics, most people stopped were not arrested and were probably doing nothing wrong. Roughly ten percent, however, were eventually arrested.
In January the Brooklyn Eagle reported that Brooklyn resident Jurard St. Hillair, finding himself the subject of the New York Police Department’s stop and frisk tactic for a second time, filed a lawsuit against the city. A video surveillance tape showed the police officers aggressively pushing St. Hillaire against a wall to search him.
"Black and Latino men are far, far more likely to be stopped, questioned, and frisked than other New Yorkers, and rarely have done anything wrong,” Williams and Lander said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “It could not be clearer that New York City needs to end discriminatory policing by passing the Community Safety Act.”
“"We appreciate the ongoing productive negotiations with Speaker Quinn on the entirety of the Community Safety Act, which has the support of elected officials across the city,” they said.
Comptroller (and mayoral candidate) John Liu -- along with roughly 20 representatives and ten community organizations -- has announced a public safety town hall meeting in Brooklyn.
The town hall will take place Wednesday, March 20 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Concord Baptist Church of Christ, 833 Gardner C. Taylor Boulevard in Brooklyn. Backers range from Representatives Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jefferies to the Legal Aid Society and the NAACP.
“Share your thoughts about stop and frisk as we discuss ways to improve public safety in our City. Let’s work together to achieve a real solution,” Liu said in a statement.
Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al., opened Monday in US District Court for New York’s Southern District. The suit was brought forward by the Center for Constitutional Rights.