Date: August 2013
Originally Published: NY Daily News
Monday’s historic ruling by Justice Shira Scheindlin is not a cause for celebration, but a new chapter in our nation’s civil rights movement. It was a victory for the thousands of men and women of color in this city who have been wronged and suffered the embarrassing indignity of being physically stopped, questioned and frisked by law enforcement simply because of the color of their skin.
The Bloomberg administration and the NYPD learned a very old lesson that most of us learn in our formative years — the end rarely justifies the means. Their own COMPSTAT statistics show that the current implementation of stop, question and frisk did little to get guns off the street and prevent gun violence.
These practices, employed under a tone-deaf administration, have made our police officers an unwelcome presence in some communities. Department-mandated quotas to drive crime down to record-lows have put our police officers under unfair pressure to make arrests.
This ruling says we need to collectively re-double our efforts to solve the issues of gun violence and crime. As we employ the NYPD to continue to do good police work, we need to address the underlying causes of gun violence and crime. All reasonable people of goodwill want an end to gun violence in our communities — whether it is a street corner on Church Ave. or a school house in Connecticut. However, as our Constitution makes emphatically clear, we cannot trample on the civil rights of the many just to get to the few who endanger us.
There may be some who will point to this ruling and say the appointment of a federal monitor by Judge Scheindlin negates the need for the Community Safety Act, a series of bills introduced by Councilman Brad Lander and I to address these issues.
A federal monitor, which I welcome to the conversation, is simply a temporary fix to a systemic problem. I can think of no stronger message we can send to the federal courts than taking the necessary steps to insure long-term safeguards such as the legislation that the City Council stands ready to implement. I am ever mindful that our court system has historically played a crucial role in the struggle for and protection of civil rights in our nation. Today is a new chapter in the struggle that continues.
Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) represents Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands and parts of Midwood and Canarsie in the City Council.