The Death of Stop-and-Frisk and the Race for NYC Mayor

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 12 2013 4:28 PM

The Death of Stop-and-Frisk and the Race for NYC Mayor

New York City's "stop and frisk" policy has been halted by a court, and the best explanation of what this means -- and meant -- comes from Adam Serwer.

 “Living in fear” seemed to be exactly what Bloomberg and the NYPD were going for. Bloomberg himself insisted that stop and frisk was a deterrent because “If you think you’re going to get stopped, you don’t carry a gun.” That’s the most benign explanation of the potential deterrent effect of stop and frisk. State Senator Eric Adams, a former police officer himself, testified that Kelly told him the NYPD focused on young blacks and Latinos because “he wanted to instill fear in them, every time they leave their home they could be stopped by the police.”Kelly denied he ever said such a thing, but not in court. Scheindlin writes that she finds Adams’ testimony credible, because of “the City’s failure to offer any rebuttal evidence regarding Commissioner Kelly’s statement at this meeting.”

Politically this changes the calculus of an issue that had been cutting in favor of some of the struggling Democratic candidates. Bill de Blasio, the public advocate who'd been getting a second look with the collapse of Anthony Weiner, had been a critic of the policy; Bill Thompson, the former comptroller, had started hitting out against it. And now it's nearly a moot topic, sort of like DOMA opposition is now mostly moot. When Azi Paybarah asked de Blasio why he blamed (still frontrunner!) city council speaker Christine Quinn for the policy's long life, he could only say that she did "not intervene as stop-and-frisk was increasing over the years." He has to say that -- but Thompson can hit him for not doing more in retrospect, and Democratic voters can't use the issue as a litmus test any more.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.