The remarkable shift that has occurred in the city’s policing tactics was sharply underscored by those present when Mr. de Blasio made the announcement. Among those standing beside him were some of the Police Department’s harshest critics, namely the directors of the civil rights legal groups that had pursued the two lawsuits that were covered by the agreement.
Mr. de Blasio, in seeking to fulfill a campaign pledge that had helped propel him to his landslide victory, said on Thursday that if the court approved the agreement the city would withdraw its appeal.
The mayor appeared with Police Commissioner William J. Bratton and the city’s corporation counsel, Zachary W. Carter, and chose a symbolic location to make his announcement: the Brownsville Recreation Center in a neighborhood of Brooklyn where the stop-and-frisk tactics had been widely applied.
A 2010 report in The New York Times found that the highest concentration of police stops in the city had occurred in a roughly eight-block area of Brownsville that is predominantly black.
“We will not break the law to enforce the law,” Mr. Bratton said in a statement. “That’s my solemn promise to every New Yorker, regardless of where they were born, where they live, or what they look like. Those values aren’t at odds with keeping New Yorkers safe — they are essential to long-term public safety.”
In discussing the agreement, Mr. de Blasio was generous in his welcome to the city’s former adversaries, who seemed delighted if not disbelieving at the turn of events in a legal battle that began in the late 1990s.
Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which helped to handle one of the lawsuits, Floyd v. City of New York, said: “This is where the real work begins. Nobody standing here is pretending this is ‘Mission Accomplished.’ ”
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which handled the other suit, said the agreement “brings us closer to closing the book on that tale of two cities.”
Bloomberg officials had credited the stop-and-frisk practice for the sharp reduction in murders and the removal of illegal guns from the streets. But while Mr. Bloomberg had characterized Judge Scheindlin’s ruling as dangerous and said it undermined public safety, Mr. de Blasio described the city’s decision to move toward reform as a moment “of profound progress.”
The mayor’s announcement comes amid a steep decline in the number of police stops, to about 21,000, in the third quarter of 2013, when Judge Scheindlin issued her opinion.
Mr. de Blasio said the stop-and-frisk practice was “broken and misused” and cited a “collective commitment to fix the fundamental problems that enabled stop-and-frisk to grow out of control and violate the rights of innocent New Yorkers.”
Indeed, the mayor not only agreed to accept the judge’s findings, but also embraced them. “This is what the democratic process is supposed to do,” he said, “and that includes the judicial process. It’s supposed to bring up the truth of what’s happening in our society, and oftentimes truths that are being ignored.”
In her ruling appointing the monitor, Peter L. Zimroth, a former corporation counsel, Judge Scheindlin did not address how long he would serve. Mr. de Blasio said that as part of the new agreement, the monitor’s role would be limited to three years, “contingent upon us meeting our obligations.”
Mr. de Blasio said he wanted to emphasize that a three-year oversight period was “a shorter window of monitoring than is customary, and that is in part because of our administration’s explicit commitment to reform, including the installation of an independent N.Y.P.D. inspector general.”
Jonathan C. Moore, co-counsel in the Floyd case, said later that the plaintiffs believed the reforms could be achieved within the three-year period.
“And if they drag their feet or they don’t comply, we have the right to ask for more time,” Mr. Moore said.
Among the remedies the judge had ordered were for “erroneous or misleading” police training materials to be corrected, and for the department to revise policies and training regarding racial profiling.
She also ordered a pilot program to outfit a limited number of officers with tiny video cameras that would record while the officers were out on patrol.
Judge Scheindlin also called for additional reforms, to be developed after members of the community, including the police, were given the chance to be heard at town-hall-style meetings and other forums.
As the deal was described on Thursday, the city formally asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to return the matter to the District Court.
The appeals panel that had blocked Judge Scheindlin’s ruling from going into effect had also removed her from overseeing the case, saying some of her actions could have led “a reasonable observer” to conclude that the appearance of impartiality had been compromised. (The panel found no “misconduct, actual bias or actual partiality” on her part.)
A new judge, Analisa Torres, will be asked to approve the agreement; once it is ratified, Mr. de Blasio said, “we will drop the appeal, and also with the court’s approval, we will settle the case.” The process of developing reforms would then begin.
It appears, though, that the city’s request to send the case to Judge Torres will not be decided immediately.
The appeals court on Thursday gave the police unions that had sought to intervene in the case until Feb. 7 to respond to the city’s request. Patrick J. Lynch, president of one of those unions, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said his group continued to have serious concerns about how the court-ordered remedies “will impact our members and the ability to do their jobs.”
Mr. Bratton made it clear that he hoped the process would now move quickly.
“Right now we’re in this kind of no-man’s land,” he said. “I need to, as police commissioner, be in a position to say to my officers: ‘This is how you police constitutionally. This is how you police respectfully. This is how you police compassionately. And that these are the guardrails that you have to stay within.’ ”
“Police need that guidance,” he added, saying the settlement would provide that. “The quicker we move down this road, the better for all concerned.”Continue reading the main story
An earlier version of this article gave an outdated title for Eric Adams. Mr. Adams is the Brooklyn borough president; he is no longer a state senator.
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In the waning days of his administration, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg—long known as the “education mayor”—seems determined to cultivate a reputation as the “police harassment mayor.” More than once over the past few months, Bloomberg has vigorously defended the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, even as the policy is being challenged in court and in the New York City Council, where two recently passed bills would appoint an inspector general to monitor the NYPD and make it easier for New Yorkers to sue the department if they felt they had been unfairly stopped.
Although both bills were passed with veto-proof majorities, Bloomberg has promised to veto them all the same. A mayoral veto would seemingly just delay the inevitable—the council would just override it and the bills would become law. Even so, Bloomberg is actively working to convince council members and the general public that the bills are worthless. On Friday, Bloomberg ripped the legislation during a radio show appearance. “These are bad bills,” Bloomberg said. “The racial profiling bill is just so unworkable. Nobody racially profiles.”
“Nobody racially profiles” is a curious statement. Every year since 2003, blacks and Latinos have consistently accounted for around 85 percent of stop-and-frisk selectees; according to 2010 census data, blacks and Latinos make up 52.6 percent of New York City’s total population. “Even in neighborhoods that are predominantly white, black, and Latino New Yorkers face the disproportionate brunt,” reports the New York Civil Liberties Union. “For example, in 2011, Black and Latino New Yorkers made up 24 percent of the population in Park Slope, but 79 percent of stops.”
It is hard to see how any reasonable person could look at that data and say that “nobody racially profiles,” but let’s give Bloomberg a fair hearing. Perhaps he meant to argue that the NYPD does not choose its stop-and-frisk candidates solely on the basis of race. And, indeed, Bloomberg essentially went on to say that the only reason blacks and Latinos are stopped so often is that stop-and-frisk demographics correspond to the demographics of criminal suspects:
“There is this business, there's one newspaper and one news service, they just keep saying, 'Oh it's a disproportionate percentage of a particular ethnic group,' " he went on. "That may be, but it's not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the murder. In that case, incidentally, I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.”
But most stop-and-frisks have nothing to do with solving “the murder,” or other specific crimes. As the NYCLU found, “Only 11 percent of stops in 2011 were based on a description of a violent crime suspect.” The rest of them were just random stops, and most of the people who are stopped turn out to be clean. Since 2003, between 87 and 90 percent of the hundreds of thousands of people stopped each year have turned out to be completely innocent of any wrongdoing.
The NYPD requires its officers to fill out paperwork justifying every single stop-and-frisk. The justifications can be maddeningly vague; people are regularly stopped, for example, because they are “carrying [a] suspicious object,” or “wearing clothes commonly used in a crime,” or because of “furtive movements” or a “suspicious bulge.” A stop can be elevated to a frisk for similarly vague reasons: “furtive movements,” “verbal threats by suspect,” if suspects are wearing “inappropriate attire for season,” if they “refuse to comply with officer’s directions.”
It does not take much of an imagination to see how these justifications give NYPD officers latitude to stop anyone, at any time, for any reason. How do you define “suspicious object”? What about “furtive movements”? I am an absent-minded person, and often will go outside without any sense of where I’m going or how to get there; thus, while walking, I will sometimes abruptly change direction, or suddenly pause and try to remember why I left my apartment in the first place. I am sure that these movements could be described as “furtive.” And yet I’ve never once been stopped by the police—even during the years when I lived in a neighborhood where gunshots and drug deals were common.
But, then, I’m a tall white dude. In that sense, I was born lucky. The same can’t be said for men like medical student David Floyd, who was stopped and frisked while walking home from the subway by police officers who refused to give a reason for the stop; or Lalit Clarkson, an assistant teacher who was stopped after buying chips at a bodega by police who claimed he was seen “coming from the vicinity of a known drug haven”; or David Ourlicht, a St. John’s University student stopped three times in six months back in 2008. All three men are black. All three men had done nothing wrong.
All three men are also plaintiffs in Floyd v. New York, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program. The case was heard by U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin this spring; she is expected to issue her ruling later this year. It is very possible that Scheindlin will find stop-and-frisk unconstitutional, thus ending the policy as we know it today. This would be a good thing. The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program is totally, unquestionably racist. But that’s only half the story. Stop-and-frisk is also totally, unquestionably ineffective.
So why, at this late moment in his mayorality, is Michael Bloomberg so invested in defending the program? As Azi Paybarah wrote today at Capital New York, “with the final city budget passed, Bloomberg seems to be acting out an adult form of senioritis, no longer calibrating his actions, or showing much interest in the patient work of giving cover to potential allies or finding pet causes with which to entice lawmakers to his side.” Bloomberg may well find it liberating to just go out and say what he thinks. But frankness can have unforeseen consequences. This Sunday, on Face the Nation, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said—somewhat hyperbolically—that Bloomberg is “really trying hard to make himself the Bull Connor of the 21st century.” That’s not the sort of legacy Bloomberg, or any other mayor, would want to leave behind.