Would someone PLEASE remind New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that this country has a Bill of Rights?
Apparently, the head honcho in the Big Apple hasn’t received that memo, even though a U.S. District judge tried to remind him.
Around mid-May Judge Shira Scheindlin gave a group of blacks and Latinos class action status in a lawsuit filed against the New York Police Department. You might have already guessed the reason.
Why, it’s those stop-and-frisk stops, of course, up to 203,500 the first three months of this year versus 183,326 for the first three months of 2011.
That’s an 11 percent increase, for the mathematically inclined among you. According to a story on the Web site www.usatoday.com, “the lawsuit alleges that the police department purposefully targeted black and Hispanic neighborhoods and said officers are pressured to meet quotas as part of the program and are punished if they don’t.”
Scheindlin pointed out another problem: there is “overwhelming evidence,” the judge concluded, that New York cops have made “thousands of illegal stops.”
What makes a stop legal or illegal? It goes way back to 1968, when the Supreme Court made a ruling in the Terry v. Ohio case. The justices said police could stop and search people on the street if they had “reasonable suspicion” to believe such people had recently engaged in, were engaged in or about to engage in criminal activity.
So a Terry stop – which has to be documented, by the way – is legal if the person stopped was engaged in suspicious activity.
It’s ILLEGAL if the person stopped was engaged in no suspicious activity. Simple, no? Not exactly quantum physics or three-variable calculus, is it?
It’s a concept so easy to grasp that you’d think even those in Bloomberg’s administration get it. Except, they don’t.
“The city has responded to the lawsuit by saying a court order to stop the practice would amount to ‘judicial intrusion,’” the USA Today Web site story says.
Here’s the way our system of government works, Mr. Bloomberg. We have three branches of government: the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch.
The legislative branch passes the laws; the executive branch carries out or enforces the laws; the judicial branch interprets the laws. Am I boring you, sir?
Each of these branches of government was set up to act as a check and balance on the other. So when the executive branch of a particular level of government – in this case, the New York City Police Department – steps out of line, the judicial branch of government is SUPPOSED to intrude.
Get the feeling Bloomberg flunked every civics course he ever took, assuming he took any at all?
Scheindlin ruled, “suspicionless stops should never occur.” Bloomberg feels suspicionless stops are the backbone of effective law enforcement.
“It’s taken more than 6,000 guns off the streets in the last eight years,” Bloomberg said of the stop-and-frisk practice in the www.usatoday.com story. “And this year we are on pace to have the lowest number of murders in recorded history. We’re not going to do anything that undermines that trend and threatens public safety.”
Let’s be clear what Bloomberg is saying: police making suspicionless stops violates the law of the land. New York City cops have been violating the law of the land, and will continue to violate it, in the name of public safety.
If we take Bloomberg’s logic – and believe me, I’m using that word guardedly – to its conclusion, then, in the name of public safety, we should scrap the Bill of Rights in its entirety.
Doesn’t that Fourth Amendment, with its stipulation that searches be “reasonable,” run counter to public safety?
What about the Fifth Amendment, and all that stuff about not being deprived of life, liberty or property without due process?
We don’t need the Sixth Amendment either, with its guarantees of a right to a fair and speedy trial.
No, in Bloomberg world, we only needs cops who will stop and frisk anyone they feel like stopping and frisking, whenever they feel like it and wherever they feel like it.
It would seem that New York City’s mayor has spent way too much time getting in touch with his inner jackboot. Isn’t it way past time for voters in the Big Apple to show Bloomberg the door?