N.Y. Stop-And-Frisk Reforms On Hold For New Year, New Mayor The legal battle over the New York City Police Department's controversial policy took a dramatic turn last week. A federal judge had ruled the practice unconstitutional, but an appeals court put that order on hold. What will happen next will partly depend on who New York's next mayor is.


N.Y. Stop-And-Frisk Reforms On Hold For New Year, New Mayor

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This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News, I'm Rachel Martin. In New York City, the country's largest police force has been involved in a high-profile legal battle over its stop-and-frisk policy, a law that gives cops the ability to stop people without a search warrant. Also in New York, big-name retailers Barneys and Macy's were recently accused of stopping and questioning black shoppers because of their race. All of this has stirred a debate about racial profiling. In a moment, we'll hear about one man's personal experience with profiling, and how he talks to his teenage son about being a black man in America.

But first, that stop-and-frisk law in New York. Back in August, a federal judge ruled that the city's use of police stops, the centerpiece of its crime-fighting strategy, routinely violated the civil rights of thousands of blacks and Latinos. An appeals court has now put that ruling on hold. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: There are few policies of outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that have been as controversial as stop-and-frisk. It's a tactic New York police use to stop people on the streets without a search warrant. The police department says it's been vital in catching criminals and reducing the city's crime rate. Critics dispute those claims, and say NYPD has disproportionately stopped, questioned and frisked blacks and Latinos without probable cause. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In fact, reasonable suspicion - a lower standard than probable cause - is required for police to stop and frisk.]

On Thursday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted changes to the policy ordered by a lower court in August. Reforms to stop-and-frisk won't take place until the city's appeal is heard in court next year with a new judge. Speaking on New York radio station WOR on Friday, Bloomberg said he was very satisfied with the latest ruling, which puts a hold on plans for an independent monitor to oversee reforms.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: We don't want an outsider coming in who doesn't know anything about crime-fighting, putting the lives of our police officers and the lives of the public on the line.

WANG: The ruling is a disappointment for Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which brought one of the lawsuits challenging NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactics.

DONNA LIEBERMAN: It's a setback, undeniably. But it's really only a procedural ruling.

SUNITA PATEL: We're not going to stop fighting discriminatory policing practices.

WANG: Sunita Patel is an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, also part of the class-action lawsuit against the city. Both Patel and Lieberman say their organizations intend to appeal the latest court ruling. They're also keeping their eyes on the political fate of one man, Bill de Blasio, the front-runner who's way ahead in New York's mayor's race.

BILL DE BLASIO: I've been saying for a long time, we need to get to work at reforming stop-and-frisk, and bringing police and communities together. And further delay is not going to help this city heal and move forward.

WANG: De Blasio spoke at a press conference on Thursday. He's been a vocal opponent of Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk policy, unlike his Republican challenger, Joe Lhota, who says he stands by the current mayor and NYPD. New York voters head to the polls on Tuesday, when they'll choose Bloomberg's successor, and a key decider on the future of stop-and-frisk.

Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News.

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