Commentary Magazine


Topic: stop and frisk

Is Skyrocketing Gun Violence a Wake-Up Call for de Blasio?

Important caveats apply, but the news out of New York City on gun violence is not good. The New York Post reports:

The number of shooting victims has skyrocketed across the city this year — up 43 percent in just the last month — while fewer guns are coming off the streets, NYPD statistics reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has repeatedly shifted the focus from shootings to a steep decline in homicides, and claims he is not worried about the gun violence.

But sources told The Post it will only get worse in the hotter summer months, and that the alarming trend is the result of a more “reactive” police force handicapped by the inability to use tactics like stop-and-frisk.

“Cops aren’t putting their hands on anyone,” a source said.

It’s early yet, and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is not entirely wrong, as a Post editorial concedes, that “Crime goes up, it goes down.” But as the Post also points out, crime fluctuates for a reason. There has always been a contradiction bordering on hypocrisy in liberal calls to crack down on legal gun ownership and Second Amendment rights to reduce gun violence while tying the hands of the police and impeding the proven–and constitutional–efforts to actually reduce gun violence.

Part of the left’s argument against the NYPD was that its “stop and frisk” policy resulted in relatively few arrests. They took this to mean that in such cases the stops themselves were unnecessary. It’s easy to spot the logical flaw here: the point was not to fill the prisons but to prevent crime. Which is exactly what the policy did:

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Important caveats apply, but the news out of New York City on gun violence is not good. The New York Post reports:

The number of shooting victims has skyrocketed across the city this year — up 43 percent in just the last month — while fewer guns are coming off the streets, NYPD statistics reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has repeatedly shifted the focus from shootings to a steep decline in homicides, and claims he is not worried about the gun violence.

But sources told The Post it will only get worse in the hotter summer months, and that the alarming trend is the result of a more “reactive” police force handicapped by the inability to use tactics like stop-and-frisk.

“Cops aren’t putting their hands on anyone,” a source said.

It’s early yet, and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is not entirely wrong, as a Post editorial concedes, that “Crime goes up, it goes down.” But as the Post also points out, crime fluctuates for a reason. There has always been a contradiction bordering on hypocrisy in liberal calls to crack down on legal gun ownership and Second Amendment rights to reduce gun violence while tying the hands of the police and impeding the proven–and constitutional–efforts to actually reduce gun violence.

Part of the left’s argument against the NYPD was that its “stop and frisk” policy resulted in relatively few arrests. They took this to mean that in such cases the stops themselves were unnecessary. It’s easy to spot the logical flaw here: the point was not to fill the prisons but to prevent crime. Which is exactly what the policy did:

Research has converged on the conclusion that a shift from reactive to proactive policing by the N.Y.P.D. has played the crucial role in what the criminologist Franklin Zimring called a “Guinness Book of World Records crime drop.” Starting with community policing under Mayor David Dinkins, and greatly intensifying under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani with the Compstat system’s intensive monitoring of crime, the city flouted the leading theory that police cannot reduce crime but can only respond to it.

While crime rose in many large cities over the past decade, it continued to decline in New York City. Zimring singles out the use of focused vigilance with “hot spot” policing, which began in 2002, as a particularly plausible explanation. Our research shows that a central element of that approach is the increased use of stop and frisk in high-crime neighborhoods.

Yet activist judge Shira Scheindlin embraced the very same logical flaw that the left was trying to push against the NYPD, and dramatically escalated the left’s war-on-the-war-on-crime by including it in a ruling outlawing the practice. That gave ammunition to those seeking to oust the successful police commissioner Ray Kelly, and far-leftist Bill de Blasio’s victory in the mayoral election sealed Kelly’s fate.

Getting rid of Kelly was only an element of the plan to discard the strategies that had helped bring down crime and save the lives of countless New Yorkers, especially those in minority neighborhoods. Now the NYPD is on the defensive because gun confiscation is down and gun violence is up.

Bratton’s spin includes bragging about the fact that while shootings are up, homicides are down. This, as California police officer “Jack Dunphy” (a pseudonym) writes, is not due to police work:

The fact that more people are being shot but fewer of them are dying is more of a testament to the state of emergency medicine in New York than to anything Bratton might be doing. Those two lines on the graph cannot diverge for long, and with the police effectively neutered, the criminal class surely will take advantage.

It’s great that a combination of emergency medicine and, probably, luck has kept the homicide rate from spiking along with the gun violence. But de Blasio must know–and Bratton surely knows–that if the numbers don’t improve soon, or if they get worse, the NYPD better have a strategy to turn things around.

As I’ve written in the past, the success of Rudy Giuliani’s administration may have helped get de Blasio elected by taking a problem off the table for the Democrats, but it will, for the same reason, likely make the voters less willing to give de Blasio a break if things head south. After the Giuliani and Bloomberg years, New Yorkers have had two decades of steadily improving quality of life and have come to expect a degree of safety in the city streets.

Those who have been in the city long enough to remember the situation Giuliani inherited will see its return coming a mile away, and vote accordingly (with their feet if necessary, by leaving the city). Those who have never known a less safe New York may very well panic at the first sign of disintegrating public safety. Either way, de Blasio and Bratton don’t have much room for error. If these numbers are not a fluke, New Yorkers will know precisely who to blame.

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Reimagining Free Speech at Brown University

On October 29, as you may have heard, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was shouted down and prevented from speaking at Brown University. William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection has written extensively on the event and the ensuing controversy. I wish to address the three arguments, all of them weak, that supporters of the protest have been making.

1. Shouting down a speaker is protected by the First Amendment. One Brown student and protest organizer crowed that the demonstration was “a powerful demonstration of free speech.” We have heard this argument before. In 2010, when former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren came to speak at UC-Irvine, audience members attempted to shout Oren down. Eleven of them were arrested. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Irvine’s School of Law and the Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law responded, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, to the claim that the protester’s rights had been violated. His remarks are worth quoting at length:

Freedom of speech, on campuses and elsewhere, is rendered meaningless if speakers can be shouted down by those who disagree. The law is well established that the government can act to prevent a heckler’s veto—prevent the reaction of the audience from silencing the speaker. There is simply no 1st Amendment right to go into an auditorium and prevent a speaker from being heard, no matter who the speaker is or how strongly one disagrees with his or her message.

Chemerinsky, author of the Conservative Assault on the Constitution, has impeccable liberal credentials. He is also a critic of New York’s stop-and-frisk policing policy, opposition to which motivated the protesters. Nonetheless, he tells us that from a First Amendment perspective the “heckler’s veto” is “an easy case.”

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On October 29, as you may have heard, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was shouted down and prevented from speaking at Brown University. William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection has written extensively on the event and the ensuing controversy. I wish to address the three arguments, all of them weak, that supporters of the protest have been making.

1. Shouting down a speaker is protected by the First Amendment. One Brown student and protest organizer crowed that the demonstration was “a powerful demonstration of free speech.” We have heard this argument before. In 2010, when former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren came to speak at UC-Irvine, audience members attempted to shout Oren down. Eleven of them were arrested. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Irvine’s School of Law and the Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law responded, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, to the claim that the protester’s rights had been violated. His remarks are worth quoting at length:

Freedom of speech, on campuses and elsewhere, is rendered meaningless if speakers can be shouted down by those who disagree. The law is well established that the government can act to prevent a heckler’s veto—prevent the reaction of the audience from silencing the speaker. There is simply no 1st Amendment right to go into an auditorium and prevent a speaker from being heard, no matter who the speaker is or how strongly one disagrees with his or her message.

Chemerinsky, author of the Conservative Assault on the Constitution, has impeccable liberal credentials. He is also a critic of New York’s stop-and-frisk policing policy, opposition to which motivated the protesters. Nonetheless, he tells us that from a First Amendment perspective the “heckler’s veto” is “an easy case.”

2. Raymond Kelly is so powerful that it is impossible to have an exchange with him. Naoko Shibusawa, a professor of history at Brown, applauds the protesters, observing that “‘Misbehavior’ is a tactic of the disempowered toward disrupting the status quo.” A Brown University senior makes a similar argument in the Guardian: “protest is discourse on the terms of the oppressed, and it takes a ‘disruption’ for marginalized communities to have their voices heard.”

Set aside that opponents of stop and frisk are not marginalized at Brown, where only 8 percent of students polled by the Brown Daily Herald support the tactic. More importantly, Bill de Blasio, who campaigned against stop and frisk, was just elected mayor of New York in a landslide, and Kelly is probably on his way out. De Blasio and his supporters evidently do not agree that, in the words of the same Brown senior, “the status quo does not abide nor will it even acknowledge critical analysis.”

3. It was an offense to blacks and Hispanics to invite Kelly, and no one who has not been stopped and frisked has a right to an opinion about it. As one student commented: “Ray Kelly is a terrorist, and he’s terrorizing our communities. Until you feel terrorism in your life, I don’t think you have the right to speak on this subject.” Marion Orr, a professor of political science and director of the center responsible for bringing Kelly to campus, evidently accepted at least part of that student’s premise when he apologized: “I sincerely apologize to my students,” he said. “Especially to my black students and Latino brothers and sisters — it wasn’t my intention to hurt you, and it hurts me to hear that my decision caused so much pain.”

Yet even after de Blasio’s campaign, according to a Quinnipiac University poll, 24 percent of black likely voters and 36 percent of Hispanic likely voters supported stop and frisk. In an August 2012 Quinippiac poll, a majority of Hispanic voters approved of stop and frisk, and while the great majority of black voters opposed it, a majority also approved of Kelly’s job performance. Whether stop and frisk is good policy or not, these data suggest that it is absurd to apologize to blacks and Latinos for the mere act of inviting Ray Kelly to campus. 

The good news is that these arguments are not accepted widely, even at Brown, where, according to the Brown Daily Herald poll, 73 percent of students disagree with the protesters’ decision to shout Ray Kelly down. Brown President Christina Paxson will form a committee to investigate the incident. In a letter to the Brown University community, President Paxson quotes the Code of Student Conduct, according to which “protest becomes unacceptable when it obstructs the basic exchange of ideas. “These standards of conduct,” she adds, “will be upheld and enforced.” Let’s hope so.

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A Stop-and-Frisk Ruling All Sides Can Cheer

Whatever one thinks of the NYPD policy known as stop and frisk, yesterday’s appeals court ruling was a welcome act of judicial restraint. In August, Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled against stop and frisk’s constitutionality on flimsy arguments after conducting an irresponsible and transparent show trial against the New York Police Department. Yesterday, the Second Circuit appeals court granted a stay of the ruling and Scheindlin’s proposed changes to the policing policy.

But the appeals court went further, reprimanding Scheindlin’s behavior and ordering her to be removed from the case:

Upon review of the record in these cases, we conclude that the District Judge ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges … and that the appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation was compromised by the District Judge’s improper application of the Court’s “related case rule,” … and by a series of media interviews and public statements purporting to respond publicly to criticism of the District Court.

What Scheindlin had done was improperly steer the case to her court so she could control the outcome, having telegraphed ahead of time that she wanted to put a stop to the tactic. The case that followed undermined her intentions, because the reality of stop and frisk is so far removed from the left-wing demagogues’ fantasy slander of the police. Scheindlin ruled against the evidence anyway, because she had come to her decision beforehand.

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Whatever one thinks of the NYPD policy known as stop and frisk, yesterday’s appeals court ruling was a welcome act of judicial restraint. In August, Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled against stop and frisk’s constitutionality on flimsy arguments after conducting an irresponsible and transparent show trial against the New York Police Department. Yesterday, the Second Circuit appeals court granted a stay of the ruling and Scheindlin’s proposed changes to the policing policy.

But the appeals court went further, reprimanding Scheindlin’s behavior and ordering her to be removed from the case:

Upon review of the record in these cases, we conclude that the District Judge ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges … and that the appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation was compromised by the District Judge’s improper application of the Court’s “related case rule,” … and by a series of media interviews and public statements purporting to respond publicly to criticism of the District Court.

What Scheindlin had done was improperly steer the case to her court so she could control the outcome, having telegraphed ahead of time that she wanted to put a stop to the tactic. The case that followed undermined her intentions, because the reality of stop and frisk is so far removed from the left-wing demagogues’ fantasy slander of the police. Scheindlin ruled against the evidence anyway, because she had come to her decision beforehand.

Because I have defended the policing tactic at the center of this–it has been found constitutional by the Supreme Court because it is constitutional, and it has saved countless lives, especially among minority communities–it would be easy to dismiss this as championing judicial restraint simply to save a policy of which I approve. But the truth is that this ruling is far better for the anti-stop and frisk crowd than Scheindlin’s ruling was.

The reason for that is simple: although Ray Kelly and the NYPD get high approval marks, on Tuesday in all likelihood Bill de Blasio will be elected mayor. De Blasio is an inexperienced ideologue (he was inspired to government service by his time spent with Marxist Sandinistas and honeymooned in Cuba), and as such has openly campaigned against responsible public servants like Kelly and the NYPD. Opponents of stop and frisk saw the momentum moving their way, after twenty years of Giuliani-Bloomberg public safety campaigns.

And just as de Blasio’s son Dante had become the public face of the de Blasio campaign, lending even more credence to de Blasio’s claim to understand the impact of city policing on the African-American community, Scheindlin swooped in and made the case all about her. A mayor who promised to end stop and frisk that was elected in a landslide lends a heavy dose of democratic legitimacy to his policing policies. An activist judge who steers a case to her courtroom and then has to be removed from the case because of her inappropriate behavior does the opposite.

This discussion takes place on a host of controversial issues. One argument against a broad Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage, for example, was that the country is making its peace with same-sex marriage and elected state legislatures are already enacting marriage-equality legislation. A court ruling imposing social rules on the country risks removing that democratic legitimacy and thus polarizing the two sides far more, as happened with Roe v. Wade, an example of judicial overreach that has ensured the matter would not be settled by democratic means.

This line of argument was that the cause of gay-marriage legalization had the most to benefit from the court staying out of the way of popular change, especially because it seemed so unnecessary. The same can be said for stop and frisk’s opponents. They are on the verge of electing their champion. Additionally, Scheindlin’s ruling was of course going to be appealed, thus freezing the process. It’s entirely possible that Scheindlin’s ruling would have ended up delaying changes to stop and frisk, while also stripping away the legitimacy of those changes.

This is why judicial restraint is so important in a democracy, and why those on both sides of stop and frisk should cheer the Second Circuit’s infusion of propriety into the case.

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Stop and Frisk vs. Gun Control

Few issues divide self-described libertarians from self-described conservatives quite as consistently as those related to security and defense. As we’ve seen with the debate over the NSA’s data collection, it isn’t just about foreign intervention either. And the recent ruling on the NYPD’s stop and frisk tactic is the latest episode demonstrating how far apart the two factions can be on policing.

I’ve written numerous times in defense of stop and frisk, and did so again after Judge Shira Scheindlin’s legally incoherent ruling against it. Reason magazine’s A. Barton Hinkle has written a response to one of my recent posts on the topic as well as those of Heather Mac Donald, National Review, and others. Hinkle’s libertarian perspective on the issue is thoughtful and it’s a constructive contribution to the debate, most significantly for his essential reminder that the ends don’t automatically justify the means; when individual liberty is at stake, the means themselves must be just.

I also appreciate that libertarians like Hinkle argue the case on the facts instead of taking the left’s approach to this debate, which is to assume racial animus on the part of anyone supporting the police. But I think Hinkle misfires on a couple of points, which are worth delineating. The title of Hinkle’s column is “Stop and Frisk: How the Right Learned to Love Gun Control,” and he explains early on that conservatives have accepted and parroted the “liberal logic of gun control,” which he defines as follows: “Government should infringe, or even abrogate, the rights of millions of law-abiding people in order to stop a minuscule fraction who use guns to commit mayhem.”

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Few issues divide self-described libertarians from self-described conservatives quite as consistently as those related to security and defense. As we’ve seen with the debate over the NSA’s data collection, it isn’t just about foreign intervention either. And the recent ruling on the NYPD’s stop and frisk tactic is the latest episode demonstrating how far apart the two factions can be on policing.

I’ve written numerous times in defense of stop and frisk, and did so again after Judge Shira Scheindlin’s legally incoherent ruling against it. Reason magazine’s A. Barton Hinkle has written a response to one of my recent posts on the topic as well as those of Heather Mac Donald, National Review, and others. Hinkle’s libertarian perspective on the issue is thoughtful and it’s a constructive contribution to the debate, most significantly for his essential reminder that the ends don’t automatically justify the means; when individual liberty is at stake, the means themselves must be just.

I also appreciate that libertarians like Hinkle argue the case on the facts instead of taking the left’s approach to this debate, which is to assume racial animus on the part of anyone supporting the police. But I think Hinkle misfires on a couple of points, which are worth delineating. The title of Hinkle’s column is “Stop and Frisk: How the Right Learned to Love Gun Control,” and he explains early on that conservatives have accepted and parroted the “liberal logic of gun control,” which he defines as follows: “Government should infringe, or even abrogate, the rights of millions of law-abiding people in order to stop a minuscule fraction who use guns to commit mayhem.”

He closes the column on a similar note:

In fact, stop-and-frisk is not a tremendous success but a tremendous failure, because such stops turn up contraband only 2 percent of the time. In other words: 98 times out of 100 the officer’s suspicion is unjustified.

If any other program had a 98 percent failure rate, conservatives would hold it up as a shining example of everything that’s wrong with big government. That they’re so eager to defend a failing program when it happens to target minorities makes their professed concern for “the most vulnerable” ring a trifle hollow.

There are a few important points here in response. First, the point of stop and frisk is not ultimately to confiscate guns, and thus its success should not be measured by a target at which it most certainly is not aiming. That is not to say gun confiscation is irrelevant to stop and frisk. But the tactic is not a guessing game to locate guns; it is an evidence-based procedure to prevent crime.

To the extent that there is some form of gun control involved, there is a crucial difference: the police are seeking to control the use of illegal guns, not the possession of legal guns. One can, therefore, support both stop and frisk and a robust respect for the Second Amendment. Yet it is the Fourth Amendment that seems to trouble Hinkle more anyway, and here we get into the thorny issue of profiling. Hinkle writes:

By the same token, just because most perpetrators in New York are black or Hispanic does not mean most blacks or Hispanics are perpetrators. After all, most homicides are committed with guns – but that does not mean most gun owners commit homicide.

Quite right. Then Hinkle adds:

The NYPD’s defenders also contend the police did not stop and frisk minorities at random; they stopped those who acted suspiciously. This is true only if you consider perfectly normal behavior suspicious.

This again omits a crucial aspect of the tactic. “Suspicious” behavior doesn’t mean someone looks like they’re about to commit a crime, however that would look. It also includes people who match the descriptions of suspects. This was something Scheindlin and the press learned when those subjected to the stop and frisk tactic began testifying, ostensibly for the plaintiffs. When they told their stories, a different picture began to emerge, as the New York Times reported in April:

One man was stopped and frisked because of his expensive red leather jacket — similar to one that a murder suspect was wearing in a wanted poster. Another man was stopped after a woman complained to the police that he was following her. Still another was stopped by officers who had watched him jostle the door of a home, trying to get in.

This is basic police work. Take the second case, for example: a woman complained to police that a certain man was following her. The police stopped the man to question him. Hinkle’s grading system rates that stop a “failure” because the man presumably didn’t have an illegal gun on him. Scheindlin made similar mistakes in her finding, which is one reason the city is challenging the ruling.

There is one point on which both conservatives and libertarians can agree: that a tactic is successful or effective doesn’t make it constitutional. Hinkle is right to warn of the slippery slope such a mindset would lead to, and conservatives shouldn’t be hostile toward such reminders. But sometimes it’s worth pointing that libertarians should avoid the reverse fallacy, and remember that just because something is effective doesn’t mean it’s authoritarian or abusive.

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The Dinkins Democrats

The competition for the Democratic nomination in New York’s mayoral race bears a surprising resemblance to the Republican presidential contest in 2012. There is the experienced but uninspiring frontrunner struggling to establish their ideological bona fides. There is the geographically underserved but critical base of voters putting up candidates who quickly falter. There is the somewhat lackluster group of candidates, with more high-profile personalities being implored to join the race to no avail.

And now there is the anybody-but-the-frontrunner theme that results in transitory poll boosts for underestimated candidates. After disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner jumped into the race, he quickly eliminated most of Christine Quinn’s putative lead in the polls, even becoming the technical “frontrunner” himself on occasion. But it turned out his sordid personal history wasn’t exactly history, and he has since faded in the polls. This has always helped not just Quinn but also Bill Thompson, since the race may very well go to a run-off where Thompson, a former comptroller and recent mayoral candidate, has a distinct advantage.

The polls showed Thompson winning in a run-off even with Weiner in the race. But Weiner’s drop in the polls has created room for another candidate bubble, and Quinnipiac says the new leader is Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:

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The competition for the Democratic nomination in New York’s mayoral race bears a surprising resemblance to the Republican presidential contest in 2012. There is the experienced but uninspiring frontrunner struggling to establish their ideological bona fides. There is the geographically underserved but critical base of voters putting up candidates who quickly falter. There is the somewhat lackluster group of candidates, with more high-profile personalities being implored to join the race to no avail.

And now there is the anybody-but-the-frontrunner theme that results in transitory poll boosts for underestimated candidates. After disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner jumped into the race, he quickly eliminated most of Christine Quinn’s putative lead in the polls, even becoming the technical “frontrunner” himself on occasion. But it turned out his sordid personal history wasn’t exactly history, and he has since faded in the polls. This has always helped not just Quinn but also Bill Thompson, since the race may very well go to a run-off where Thompson, a former comptroller and recent mayoral candidate, has a distinct advantage.

The polls showed Thompson winning in a run-off even with Weiner in the race. But Weiner’s drop in the polls has created room for another candidate bubble, and Quinnipiac says the new leader is Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:

With strong support from white Democratic likely primary voters and voters critical of the so-called stop-and-frisk police tactic, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio leads the Democratic race for New York City mayor with 30 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

With four weeks to go, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has 24 percent, with 22 percent for former Comptroller William Thompson, 10 percent for former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, 6 percent for Comptroller John Liu, 1 percent for former Council member Sal Albanese and 7 percent undecided, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

The mayoral race is devoid of candidates with high name recognition (except of course for Weiner, whose high name ID isn’t doing him any favors), so the fluctuating polls may be registering the voting public’s discovery and consideration, rather than approval, of the individual candidates. Additionally, though de Blasio will be understandably cheered to see his name in lights, the votes could not have come from a worse place, strategically, for him.

The poll essentially reapportioned Weiner’s support after he reminded voters why he is not currently serving in elected office. That reapportionment happened just as de Blasio was introducing himself to the voters. But if Weiner is truly washing out of contention, de Blasio’s first-place ranking may be just as temporary as the leads of those he displaced. That’s because of the reason for his sudden support as speculated by Quinnipiac:

Stop-and-frisk is excessive and harasses innocent people, 60 percent of likely Democratic primary voters say, while 31 percent say it is an acceptable way to make the city safer. Among those critical of stop-and-frisk, 34 percent back de Blasio, with 24 percent for Thompson and 22 percent for Quinn.

Democratic likely voters support 66 – 25 percent the creation of an inspector general to independently monitor the New York Police Department.

De Blasio does best among those who want to get rid of the police tactic that has been so effective against crime. Most Democratic candidates have shifted to the left on this issue, but Weiner has not shifted as far. That has thus far anchored the rest of the Democratic candidates in place, since they would have to try to compete for pro-NYPD votes in the primary. If Weiner is not going to be competitive, and Democratic opinion is moving away from support for the police, there is nothing to stop Quinn or Thompson from moving further to their left if that’s what it takes to outflank de Blasio. If de Blasio loses this issue, he probably loses his lead.

The real lesson, then, of the Democratic primary contest is that no one is running as the responsible, law and order candidate. De Blasio’s lead is tenuous because there is nothing substantive to differentiate him from the others, and both Thompson and Quinn have either reliable voting bases or more money than de Blasio. There is an opening for a Democratic candidate to run as somewhat tough on crime, but none of the candidates has any desire to do so.

That means there’s an opening for such a candidate on the GOP side, and both Joseph Lhota and John Catsimatidis will try to run as the “Giuliani” candidate with warnings about the Democrats taking the city back to its Dinkins-era dystopia. But neither Lhota nor Catsimatidis has Giuliani’s credibility on crime issues. And it’s important to remember that Giuliani lost to Dinkins his first time running, and only (narrowly) defeated Dinkins after what was a truly disastrous, riot-plagued term in office.

The Dinkins era was twenty years ago. It’s a blessing that New Yorkers could forget what it was like. It is alarming that a new crop of Democrats threatens to remind them.

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The NYC Mayoral Election and Public Safety

In one of its several reaction stories on yesterday’s irredeemably shoddy judicial ruling against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactic, the New York Times calls attention to the sudden relevance of the mayoral candidates to this court case. The administration of Michael Bloomberg is appealing the ruling, but the Times points out that it is likely Bloomberg’s term in office will end before the appeals process does. So the Times explains how various New York mayoral candidates would handle it.

The Republican candidates, Joseph Lhota and John Catsimatidis, both said they would continue Bloomberg’s fight to keep the city’s minority neighborhoods safe. That was in stark contrast to the Democratic candidates, who seemed to be in general agreement that confused judicial activists, instead of criminal justice experts or concerns for public safety, should drive police policy. They seem worried, in fact, that the city might win its appeal and thus rather than be advocates of the city and its residents, they want to stop the process in its tracks:

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In one of its several reaction stories on yesterday’s irredeemably shoddy judicial ruling against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactic, the New York Times calls attention to the sudden relevance of the mayoral candidates to this court case. The administration of Michael Bloomberg is appealing the ruling, but the Times points out that it is likely Bloomberg’s term in office will end before the appeals process does. So the Times explains how various New York mayoral candidates would handle it.

The Republican candidates, Joseph Lhota and John Catsimatidis, both said they would continue Bloomberg’s fight to keep the city’s minority neighborhoods safe. That was in stark contrast to the Democratic candidates, who seemed to be in general agreement that confused judicial activists, instead of criminal justice experts or concerns for public safety, should drive police policy. They seem worried, in fact, that the city might win its appeal and thus rather than be advocates of the city and its residents, they want to stop the process in its tracks:

Four Democrats vying to succeed Mr. Bloomberg pledged on Monday to overhaul the stop-and-frisk tactic and end the city’s appeal of the decision if elected: Bill de Blasio, the public advocate; John C. Liu, the city comptroller; Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker; and William C. Thompson Jr., a former city comptroller….

While many of the Democratic candidates have said they would work to decrease the frequency of stops, they have not said exactly how they would overhaul the stop-and-frisk practice.

The exception is Mr. Liu, who has called for banning the tactic entirely.

That follows the phenomenon I wrote about yesterday, in which liberal demagogues assail the police but admit to not having any constructive alternative ideas. It may sound dangerous to advocate for tearing down the system of public safety without so much as a backup plan for what replaces it, but all the Democratic candidates appear to believe the current weakness of the city’s Republican Party means that Democrats can make the breakdown of the social order their election platform and still win.

Heather Mac Donald writes today in the New York Post that the anti-NYPD campaign requires a denial of observable reality. As if on cue to confirm Mac Donald’s framing, the Times publishes a “news analysis” today as well, which seeks to connect the stop-and-frisk ruling and the recent announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that federal prosecutors would not pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses:

Two decisions Monday, one by a federal judge in New York and the other by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., were powerful signals that the pendulum has swung away from the tough-on-crime policies of a generation ago. Those policies have been denounced as discriminatory and responsible for explosive growth in the prison population.

But that is either completely wrong or a convenient sleight of hand to fool the reader into buying the fabricated connection. It’s true that mandatory minimums prevent the justice system from adapting to the times and from using discretion and judgment in the pursuit of criminals. There has been bipartisan support for reforming or suspending mandatory minimums, and the process certainly has resulted in the disproportionate incarceration of minority males.

But stop-and-frisk does not belong in that category. The tactic seeks to prevent crimes and therefore to prevent incarceration. Not only are minorities in the city safer because of stop-and-frisk, but the proactive approach to crime prevention is a useful tool in seeking to reduce the prison population. Indeed, as I noted yesterday, Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ridiculous ruling was based in part on the fact that the police were arresting so few of the men subject to stops.

It was suspicious, Scheindlin claimed, that the police didn’t seem to be arresting anyone. That, of course, is the point: stop-and-frisk gets illegal guns off the street and suppresses criminal activity. If you can prevent violent crime, there is no need to arrest anyone for those nonexistent crimes. It is absurd, then, for the Times to pair Scheindlin’s ruling with mandatory minimums. Scheindlin’s ruling makes it far more likely that incarceration will increase.

Scheindlin’s idea of policing–shared, according to the Times, by the Democratic candidates–would take young males out of the local economy, break up families, and bring increases in crime. Any resulting middle-class flight would hurt the city’s tax base and thus the services that the city’s poor rely on, as well as drive up prices in the receiving neighborhoods, further pricing the non-wealthy out of the city. It’s a cycle New York, like the country’s other major cities, has experienced before. And it’s a cycle that liberal judicial activists and the city’s Democratic mayoral candidates are apparently ready to inflict on the city once again.

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The Ridiculous Ruling Against the NYPD

Today Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled against the NYPD’s legal and effective “stop and frisk” program, erroneously finding elements of it unconstitutional. It was nice of her to wait until after the case to release her decision, since it’s doubtful she waited until the end of the trial to construct it. Indeed Scheindlin’s decision, which will put the lives of New York City’s minorities at great risk, was no surprise. She made it clear from the beginning she was going to rule against the NYPD, and her decision to grant the plaintiffs’ request that the trial be jury-free ensured she would have total control over the outcome.

Her lack of remorse in sacrificing the safety of minorities to pursue her activist crusade against the police was only part of the inanity of her decision. In the New York Times’s write-up of the case this morning, the paper–which has been an outspoken opponent of protecting heavily minority neighborhoods in the city–provides a revealing look into Scheindlin’s mindset. First, the Times notes that stop-and-frisk occurrences “soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline.” I eagerly await the moment the Times makes the connection between the drop in the crime rate and stop and frisk (hint: the latter results in the former). Later, the Times summarizes one of Scheindlin’s objections to the practice:

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Today Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled against the NYPD’s legal and effective “stop and frisk” program, erroneously finding elements of it unconstitutional. It was nice of her to wait until after the case to release her decision, since it’s doubtful she waited until the end of the trial to construct it. Indeed Scheindlin’s decision, which will put the lives of New York City’s minorities at great risk, was no surprise. She made it clear from the beginning she was going to rule against the NYPD, and her decision to grant the plaintiffs’ request that the trial be jury-free ensured she would have total control over the outcome.

Her lack of remorse in sacrificing the safety of minorities to pursue her activist crusade against the police was only part of the inanity of her decision. In the New York Times’s write-up of the case this morning, the paper–which has been an outspoken opponent of protecting heavily minority neighborhoods in the city–provides a revealing look into Scheindlin’s mindset. First, the Times notes that stop-and-frisk occurrences “soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline.” I eagerly await the moment the Times makes the connection between the drop in the crime rate and stop and frisk (hint: the latter results in the former). Later, the Times summarizes one of Scheindlin’s objections to the practice:

She noted that about 88 percent of the stops result in the police letting the person go without an arrest or ticket, a percentage so high, she said, that it suggests there was not a credible suspicion to suspect the person of criminality in the first place.

Thus we are now aware that Scheindlin has no idea what she’s talking about–not to mention the fact that her reasoning would suggest the officers would be less suspicious if they made more arrests during the stops. Though all this might tempt readers to skip the text of Scheindlin’s actual written decision, I can assure that anyone who makes the effort will be duly rewarded. For example, in one of the most revealing passages of the text, Scheindlin writes the following, in her introduction:

It is important that this Opinion be read synergistically. Each section of the Opinion is only a piece of the overall picture. Some will quarrel with the findings in one section or another. But, when read as a whole, with an understanding of the interplay between each section, I hope that this Opinion will bring more clarity and less disagreement to this complex and sensitive issue.

In other words, if you simply read the words of her decision, even without legal training you will be shocked by the incompetence. Each section will likely be wrong on the merits, and thus cast doubt on her conclusion. But if you read it “synergistically” it will make sense. This is the Magic Eye book of judicial decisions: if you stare at the page just the right way, its hidden meaning will appear. Of course, the moment you stop staring cross-eyed or change the lighting, it will revert back to its previous form, in which it deceptively appears to be a 200-page humorless New York Times editorial.

The truth is, the best way to understand this trial is to read an early-August piece in the New York Times headlined “More Complaints Than Proposed Solutions at Trial Over Police Searches.” Scheindlin doesn’t argue that stop and frisk is illegal; what she doesn’t like is the frequency with which this legal tactic is utilized. So the story details how the NYPD might reform the practice once she rules against the department. Here is how the story opens:

The judge overseeing the trial examining the constitutionality of the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices had a novel idea for how to reduce illegal police stops.  

“What did you think of a body-worn camera?” the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, asked the lawyers assembled before her. It was the last question the judge asked during the trial, which ran from March to May.

“I’m intrigued by it,” she explained, observing how helpful it would be if police officers recorded what transpired during stops, which are frustratingly difficult to reconstruct in the courtroom months or years after the fact.

The topic of body cameras seemed to come out of nowhere; the technology had been mentioned in passing by one witness, but none of the lawyers had suggested that it be employed.

This scene, in which a federal judge is essentially spending the trial talking to herself out loud as lawyers and reporters watch in puzzled amazement, is sadly a pretty accurate description of the trial overall. The same story later notes that “as the trial ended, it seemed that Judge Scheindlin was casting about for ideas on how she might fix the problem.”

It’s a problem she was seeking to create, and she had no earthly idea how the city was going to clean up the mess she was about to make of public safety. Notice a steady line of reasoning through her thought process. She doesn’t like the number of stops being made by the police without additional arrests, which would seem to make any constitutional objection to stop and frisk even more acute. But not to Scheindlin. And she thinks the sheer number of stops erodes the dignity of the civilians involved, so her suggestion for how to alleviate this is… to have the police secretly videotape the stops!

That is, Scheindlin seems to intuitively understand that her anti-NYPD ruling will create problems that can best be solved by more heavyhanded policing. It is a ringing endorsement, paradoxically, of the incredible work the NYPD has done in reducing crime and returning dignity to the streets of New York. That Scheindlin can so blithely attempt to sweep away those gains probably sounds silly. But that is not Scheindlin’s fault. If you aren’t looking at this “synergistically,” you really only have yourself to blame.

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Liberal Activists’ Case Against the NYPD Is Falling Apart

In August, after the New York Times published a story accusing the New York Police Department of overtly racist policing, the NYPD responded by noting that: “During the first 10 years of the Bloomberg Administration there were 5,430 murders compared to 11,058 in the 10 years prior, a reduction of 51% or 5,628 lives saved. If history is a guide, the vast majority of those lives saved were young men of color.”

That continued a trend that began during the previous decade, when Rudy Giuliani was mayor. The drop in crime resulted in, for example, a 90-percent reduction in murders in one of Manhattan’s largely Hispanic neighborhoods. Minority communities in New York have been the beneficiaries of a policing revolution that put the city back on its feet in dramatic fashion. But to liberal activists and their judicial allies, the dignity of life is undercut by the supposed indignities inflicted upon the neighborhoods where police use the effective “stop and frisk” tactic.

They have sued to stop the practice, arguing police make their stops based on race. Judge Shira Scheindlin gave the case a boost when she ruled that the plaintiffs have standing to not just sue the city but to challenge the use of the police tactic at all. Though the decision to allow the case to proceed to trial was a blow against efforts to protect minorities, the trial itself has at least had the benefit of weakening the case against the NYPD–as well as Scheindlin’s own decision to approve the plaintiffs’ standing.

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In August, after the New York Times published a story accusing the New York Police Department of overtly racist policing, the NYPD responded by noting that: “During the first 10 years of the Bloomberg Administration there were 5,430 murders compared to 11,058 in the 10 years prior, a reduction of 51% or 5,628 lives saved. If history is a guide, the vast majority of those lives saved were young men of color.”

That continued a trend that began during the previous decade, when Rudy Giuliani was mayor. The drop in crime resulted in, for example, a 90-percent reduction in murders in one of Manhattan’s largely Hispanic neighborhoods. Minority communities in New York have been the beneficiaries of a policing revolution that put the city back on its feet in dramatic fashion. But to liberal activists and their judicial allies, the dignity of life is undercut by the supposed indignities inflicted upon the neighborhoods where police use the effective “stop and frisk” tactic.

They have sued to stop the practice, arguing police make their stops based on race. Judge Shira Scheindlin gave the case a boost when she ruled that the plaintiffs have standing to not just sue the city but to challenge the use of the police tactic at all. Though the decision to allow the case to proceed to trial was a blow against efforts to protect minorities, the trial itself has at least had the benefit of weakening the case against the NYPD–as well as Scheindlin’s own decision to approve the plaintiffs’ standing.

In recent weeks, the courtroom has played host to some extraordinary scenes. In Scheindlin’s decision approving the plaintiffs’ standing, she refers to the NYPD’s own paperwork, which contains the records and recollections of the stops. The records supposedly show the police to have made unnecessary stops in minority neighborhoods. But Scheindlin began to sense, correctly, that it’s quite difficult to fully understand a police stop by its record form. As the New York Daily News notes in an editorial slamming the shoddy judicial activism of the court in letting the case go through, Scheindlin asked former Chief of Department Joseph Esposito the following question: “You really don’t know much about the stop just by looking at the form, do you?”

The Daily News editorial continued:

“Correct,” he answered, as it became crystal clear that Scheindlin had given the go-ahead to a case built on evidence that, by her own statement, is wholly unreliable. Case dismissed, Your Honor.

Perhaps even more remarkable than this exchange was a story buried in the local section of yesterday’s New York Times, the paper that has led the spurious and scandalously dangerous campaign against the NYPD. The headline is “Some Testimony on Police Tactic Undercuts Bias Claim,” and the piece delivers the goods. It opens with this:

One man was stopped and frisked because of his expensive red leather jacket — similar to one that a murder suspect was wearing in a wanted poster. Another man was stopped after a woman complained to the police that he was following her. Still another was stopped by officers who had watched him jostle the door of a home, trying to get in.

Recruited by civil rights lawyers, these men and others have testified about their encounters with the police in a federal trial weighing whether the soaring number of stop-and-frisk encounters has resulted in widespread constitutional violations for hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic men. They were chosen to give voice to the toll that the police’s use of the tactic has inflicted on an entire demographic, their lawyers say.

But over the trial’s first month, some of these men’s accounts seemed to veer away from the straightforward narrative of racial profiling — and may have actually undermined the plaintiffs’ efforts to demonstrate that the police routinely disregard the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable police detentions.

In other words, the police are doing their jobs. Intervening in a possible break-in; responding to a woman’s call that she was in danger; stopping a man wearing the same distinctive clothing as a man pictured in a wanted poster–is this not a clear description of responsible policing? Indeed it is. And yet the attorneys who put these witnesses on the stand thought they were going to describe racial profiling, because the case against the NYPD is based not on facts but on delusional ideological prejudice against the police.

The Times article’s tone is one of surprise. Do the facts of the case comport with the paper’s editorial outlook? Not at all. Will the editors adjust their opinion of the NYPD now that they have been exposed to the truth? That’s anybody’s guess, but it’s an improvement, at the very least, that they are reporting it.

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