By Rich Bockmann
Murders in Queens are down almost 40 percent from where they were last year, and the federal judge who ruled the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional cited the citywide drop in crime Tuesday when she rebuked the Bloomberg administration’s claim that reforming the Police Department would make the streets unsafe.
After filing notice it would appeal Manhattan Judge Shira Scheindlin’s August ruling, the city asked the judge to stay her appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the retraining of the police force, arguing her orders had the possibility to create “an environment that may stem and reverse the longstanding record of crime reduction in this city.”
The judge rejected the motion, citing a 27 percent decline in crime through the first half of the year while the number of stops has fallen 50 percent.
“The recent reduction in the number of stops appears to have been a positive step toward remedying an improper practice without sacrificing the security of the community,” she wrote.
“Ordering a stay now would send precisely the wrong signal,” the ruling continued. “It would essentially confirm that the past practices, resulting in hundreds of thousands of stops — overwhelmingly of minorities — that resulted in little or no enforcement action or seizure of contraband were justified and based on constitutional police practices. It would also send the message that reducing the number of stops is somehow dangerous to the residents of this city.”
In Queens, the number of murders fell 39.7 percent through the beginning of September, down from 68 last year to 41.
The city argued that Scheindlin’s orders were too broad and that retraining officers on what it viewed as an erroneous interpretation of constitutional law would cause irreparable harm to the NYPD. But the judge said the city was using a circular argument and pointed out that the reforms were still in the stage where the stakeholders were discussing how to move forward.
In August she appointed Peter Zimroth, former corporation counsel for the city, as the independent monitor.
In response to the judge’s decision, the city’s current chief lawyer said it was evaluating its next steps as it seeks an expedited appeal in the Second Circuit Court.
“The plaintiffs have opposed that motion, apparently preferring to keep police officers in limbo for the foreseeable future,” Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo said. “We cannot afford such delay, as public safety is of paramount concern to the mayor and the police commissioner.”
Cardozo said the city will seek a stay with the appeals court.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.