The New York Times commended Attorney General Eric Holder in an editorial this weekend for investigating the NYPD’s Muslim surveillance practices, and called on the Justice Department to examine some of the department’s other practices, including stop-and-frisk, the marijuana arrest initiative, and pepper-spraying at Occupy Wall Street. “The Justice Department should also review other practices — chief among them, stop-and-frisk — that have virtually eliminated the presumption of innocence and that treat citizens, and even entire communities, as suspect even after they are proved innocent,” the Times wrote.
The Times concludes its piece:
Since 9/11, courts have broadened the Police Department’s investigative authority in the vital interest of protecting the city from terrorist attack. The department should not interpret that as a license to run roughshod over the Constitution.
In a press release Sunday NYPD countered the Times declaring the paper’s opinion “wrong.”
The NYPD stated:
The New York Times is wrong in claiming in an editorial that the NYPD overstepped constitutional guarantees in protecting New Yorkers from violent crime and terrorism.
The Times continues to ignore the fact that the NYPD operates under a judicial federal accord in protecting New Yorkers against terrorism.
The Police Department also lawfully stops and questions individuals acting suspiciously and, in doing so, has dramatically reduced murders in the city’s most violent-prone neighborhoods.
The department cited the federal Handschu decree (something it has done before) to support the “proactive” nature of its information gathering, and gave examples of arrests of terrorist plotters as proof that their methods are working.
But going beyond the question of Muslim surveillance, the Times called out the NYPD’s “history of failing to comply with court rulings, like this one, that seek to avert the potential abuse of its power” and “tendency toward blanket surveillance,” which the paper said was on “vivid display” in the stop-and-frisk program. The NYPD countered by saying that critics calling the department prejudiced are “ignoring the fact that we focus police resources where spikes in violent crime are the highest, and where last year 96% of shooting victims were minorities, mainly young men of color.”
The Times used incidents, including preemptive arrests at Occupy Wall Street, and the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager being pursued on a drug violation, to show the department’s overeager tendencies in attempting to stop or prevent crime.