When Bill de Blasio tapped William Bratton to be his police commissioner, the progressive coalition that vaulted him to the mayor’s office let out a collective sigh.
Would Mayor de Blasio’s promise of reforming the unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policies come to fruition once he was in office? A longtime stop-and-frisk supporter, Bill Bratton’s selection was a sign that maybe the promise to reform stop-and-frisk would be broken.
Now Bratton is singing a different tune regarding the policy saying Thursday, “We will not break the law to enforce the law.”
These latest signs from the newly inaugurated de Blasio administration are promising.
Last November Mayor de Blasio said of stop-and-frisk, “Public safety is a prerequisite for the thriving neighborhoods that create opportunity in this city. So is respect for civil liberties. The two are not mutually exclusive; in fact we must have both. We must work to promote a real partnership between the best police force in the world and the communities they protect from danger – be it local or global. New Yorkers on both sides of the badge understand this. We’re all hungry for an approach that acknowledges we are stronger and safer as a city when police and residents work hand in hand. That’s how we all rise together.”
Stop-and-frisk is a discriminatory policing policy that federal courts have ruled unconstitutional and it was called “a policy [of] indirect racial profiling.” With certain questions related to the law settled, advocates and progressives looked to City Hall for a sign of the promised changes becoming reality. Thursday, de Blasio announced that the city filed paperwork to drop the city’s appeal to a federal judge’s ruling that the city had violated the constitutional rights of innocent minorities. The settlement has to be approved by the federal court and once accepted a court monitor would be appointed to oversee the reforms.
That could be a sign of a progressive future, particularly if additional reforms are put in place that advocates have been pushing for for years. Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, responded to the news with cautious optimism saying, “Today is the beginning of a long-overdue process: the reform of the NYPD to end illegal and racially discriminatory policing. For too long, communities of color have felt under siege by the police, and young black and Latino men have disproportionately been the target. We are glad to have reached an agreement with the City and commend Mayor de Blasio for promising to drop the appeal and embracing reform. We are eager to finally begin creating real change.”
It seems that Mayor de Blasio is signaling clearly that he’s serious about his promise to reform the police department. As Mayor de Blasio told Reverend Al Sharpton on PoliticsNation Thursday night, “With a judge’s approval we are going to end the city’s appeal and we’re going to accept the judge’s ruling…We’re accepting those reforms the judge put forward. We’re embracing those reforms and we believe they will actually make us safer in the finally analysis and police and community will have a chance to work together as opposed to being divided by an unfair policy…The whole concept here is to return to community policing.”
De Blasio believes that these reforms will bring back the connection between communities and the law enforcement tasked with protecting them.
For now, Mayor de Blasio is saying the right things. What’s next for stop-and-frisk will depend on whether the police department under Commissioner Bratton will implement the recommendations of the federal judge or whether they will resist a policy change.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.