Grenadian-American legislature Jumaane Williams who was wrongfully arrested last Labour Day during the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade, said on Sunday he held a “glimmer of hope” for reform of the controversial ‘stop, question and frisk’ policy by the New York Police Department (NYPD).
According to Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC):
New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams’s comments came after a United States federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, granted class-action status to a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s tactics.
“There is a glimmer of hope that (Police) Commissioner (Raymond) Kelly may finally get serious about true reform to the NYPD’s misuse and overuse of stop, question and frisk,” Williams, who represents the predominantly West Indian 45th Council District in Brooklyn, told the Caribbean Media Corporation on Sunday.
“I have said that the first step towards solving this problem is admitting that one exists, and he (Kelly) admitted that he has a problem with ‘stop, question and frisk’,” Williams added.
He also said he is continuing to push for the passage and implementation of the Community Safety Act, a package of police accountability legislation that he introduced in the City Council on February 29.
The measures would expand bias-based profiling protections, direct police officers to record express consent for searches and institute a “business card” for distribution when an individual is stopped for questioning.
Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin said last week that she was very concerned about the city’s “deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights”.
Observers say Scheindlin’s decision provides possible legal recourse for hundreds of thousands of people who have been caught up in the NYPD’s increasingly vigorous stop-and-frisk practice, which critics say unjustly ensnares Caribbean people, among other blacks and Latinos.
The NYPD had disclosed that it had made more than 200,000 such stops in the first three months of 2012, putting the Bloomberg administration on course for the largest number of annual stops in the 10 years the police department has been measuring them.
“The vast majority of New Yorkers who are unlawfully stopped will never bring suit to vindicate their rights,” wrote Judge Scheindlin in granting class-action status to the case, which was filed in January 2008 by New York’s Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of four plaintiffs.
She said evidence presented in the case showed that the NYPD had a “policy of establishing performance standards and demanding increased levels of stops and frisks” that has led to an exponential growth in the number of stops.
“Suspicion-less stops should never occur”, the judge ruled as she described the city’s attitude as “cavalier”.
In light of the judge’s ruling, Commissioner Kelly said he will take steps to enhance public confidence in police tactics.
But the city’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, alluded to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initial claim that reforming stop-and-frisk would cost thousands of lives and “return us to the bad old days of high crime.
“Today, his administration made a complete 180 (degrees),” he said, warning, however: “We have been down this road before only to watch lasting reform slip away.
“Given how resistant City Hall has been to reform—including our proposal to use CompStat to reduce unwarranted stops—we cannot afford to release the pressure now.
“While today could mark the start of true reform, we need to make sure it is both tangible and permanent.”
De Blasio urged city councillors to pass a bill he has proposed to reform ‘stop-and-frisk’. “New Yorkers should practice the old adage: ‘trust but verify.’”