AG Holder Backs NYPD Monitor for Civil Rights

NEW YORK -

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday lambasted a plan by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to install a monitor over the NYPD on Thursday, arguing it would compromise the city’s crime fighting and put lives at risk.

“This is just a terrible idea, and it’s not needed,” he said. “The NYPD has brought crime down in ways that nobody — nobody — thought was possible … The NYPD has just done a spectacular job, and it just makes no sense whatsoever when lives are on the line to change the rules and hamper the police department from doing their job. They comply with the law; we are 100-percent confident in that.”

The U.S. Justice Department late Wednesday waded into the debate over the “stop, question and frisk” policy, telling a federal judge that it strongly endorses an independent monitor to oversee changes should she decide civil rights violations have occurred.

Lawyers filed their 21-page statement of interest late Wednesday, the last day to file paperwork. The court papers say the government was weighing in “only in order to assist the court on the issue of remedy, and only should it find that NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices are unlawful.” It did not say whether it believed the practices to be unconstitutional.

“The department has extensive experience working to ensure that police services are delivered in an effective, constitutional manner,” the Justice Department said in a statement following the court filing. “Our statement of interest is intended to share our experience relevant to fashioning an appropriate remedy, should it be required.”

U.S. District Court Judge Shira Sheindlin is considering whether to order reforms to the police policy after a 10-week bench trial in which a dozen people testified that they were stopped by police solely because of their race.

New York police have made about 5 million stops in the past decade, most of them involving black and Hispanic men. Lawyers for the four men who sued say a small percentage of those stops were unconstitutional, and they want a monitor to oversee changes to police department training, supervision and policy.

Several police officials testified at the trial about how stops are conducted, and many officers disputed the witnesses’ version of the encounter. In order to stop someone, police said they need reasonable suspicion, a standard lower than probable cause, which is needed to justify an arrest.

This is not the first time the Justice Department is wading in on a local issue. It noted in its brief that it sought and secured reforms to police misconduct in dozens of law enforcement agencies nationwide, and gave the judge citations to peruse the cases. It singled out as a particular success a consent decree in Pittsburgh in 1997 where reforms were overseen by a monitor until 2002.

But Bloomberg said that a federal agency’s experience differs vastly from that of a city police force.

“I don’t know what experience they have,” the mayor said. “We have done the streets of New York City. We have an enormous amount of experience. It’s pretty hard to argue that we don’t know what we’re doing.”

City lawyers argued the department does a good job policing itself with an internal affairs bureau, a civilian complaint board and quality assurance divisions.


 

With reporting by The Associated Press.