In a OpEd that ran in The New York Times shortly before Wednesday’s, 9th Democratic debate, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin claimed Mayor Mike Bloomberg was not a racist but had an empty head when it came to his controversial and unconstitutional ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policy.
In 2013, I ruled in Floyd vs. City of New York that the tactics underlying the city’s stop-and-frisk program violated the constitutional rights of people of color. While Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York, black and Latino people were disproportionately stopped, and often frisked, millions of times, peaking at 690,000 in 2011. After my ruling, the number of stops plummeted to 11,000 in 2018. And crime did not rise.
Despite this, Mayor Bloomberg continued to zealously defend stop-and-frisk, including in eyebrow-raising comments at the Aspen Institute in 2015 which recently resurfaced. He apologized for the policy only days before jumping into the presidential race. Many people are wondering — is he a racist? I don’t think so. Not if you look at many other valuable things he has done for minorities. I don’t believe he ever understood the human toll of stopping black and Latino men, 90 percent of which did not result in a summons or arrest. But the stops were frightening, humiliating and unwarranted invasions of black and brown people’s bodies.
At the time of the Floyd trial, and still today, I am convinced that Mayor Bloomberg believed that the stop-and-frisk policy — which began under Rudy Giuliani, his immediate predecessor, but grew dramatically during Mr. Bloomberg’s tenure — was protecting African-Americans, who were disproportionately the victims of crime. Although it has been widely disproved, he believed in the “broken windows” theory of policing, where stopping small infractions would prevent an escalation of crime. He believed his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, who told him that young black men would leave their guns at home if they thought they would be stopped. This was misguided because a stop based on racial profiling instead of reasonable suspicion is unconstitutional. But this does not mean he hates black people. The most I can say is he had a pure heart but an empty head; the stop-and-frisk program was very poorly executed.
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