NYC reaches deal to end battle over stop-and-frisk policy

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
AP File
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that New York City had reached an agreement with civil rights lawyers who had challenged the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which would allow the sweeping reforms ordered by a federal judge last summer to be carried out.

Those reforms, which included the appointment of a federal monitor, were blocked last fall after the Bloomberg administration appealed the judge’s rulings, which found that the city’s stop-and-frisk policies were unconstitutional and that the department had resorted to “a policy of indirect racial profiling.”

The judge, Shira A. Scheindlin of U.S. District Court in Manhattan, had ruled that the policy resulted in “the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.”


But Thursday, de Blasio, seeking to fulfill a long-stated campaign pledge that helped to propel his landslide victory, said his administration had taken a major step toward resolving the polarizing dispute that for years had strained relations between the police and minorities.

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“We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city,” de Blasio said in a news conference. “We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.”

In announcing the agreement, de Blasio pledged a “commitment to fix the fundamental problems that enabled stop-and-frisk to grow out of control and violate the rights of innocent New Yorkers.”

The mayor, appearing with Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, chose a symbolic location to make his comments — the Brownsville Recreation Center in Brooklyn.

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 was predominantly black.


“We will not break the law to enforce the law,” Bratton said. “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 a telling sign of the remarkable shift that had taken place, those invited to join de Blasio included state Sen. Eric Adams, a persistent critic of the stop-and-frisk policy who testified before Scheindlin in the case and who clashed frequently on the issue with Bratton’s predecessor, Raymond W. Kelly.

Scheindlin, in her rulings in August, had mandated remedies to address what she called “the urgent need to curb the constitutional abuses.”

The judge had said that the initial responsibility of the federal monitor, Peter L. Zimroth, would be to develop, after consultation with the parties, a set of immediate reforms of the department’s “policies, training, supervision, monitoring and discipline regarding stop and frisk.”

The judge, for example, had called for “erroneous or misleading” police training materials to be corrected, and for the department to revise its policies and training regarding racial profiling.


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.