New York

Stop-and-Frisk Controversy…Pol Might Be Overshooting the Mark


City Councilman Peter Vallone offered an interesting claim in yesterday’s tab. He said a stop-and-frisk bill being considered by the council could cost the city $1 billion a year. We think he might be overstating things.

Vallone, the chair of the council’s public safety committee, did not offer any basis for this estimate, according to the article in the New York Post. But he claimed the bill will make it easier for New Yorkers to sue over stop and frisk will “bankrupt the city.”

“This is the most dangerous and irresponsible bill ever to be considered by the city council,” he told the Post.

The comment was immediately assaulted by Joo-Hyun Kang, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. Kang said stop and frisk is already costing the city millions a year, and said the legislation will “help protect New Yorkers from abusive policing and the city from paying out millions of dollars a year due to discriminatory and unlawful policing.”

“They have failed to take concrete action to curb this government-led discrimination, and reduce the already too-high human and financial costs to the city,” Kang said.

The bill, Intro 800, was sponsored by 29 councilmembers, all Democrats. The language is vague, which is a problem, but it appears to declare discrimination in stop and frisk illegal, and tells folks they can sue. Law enforcement has violated the law when profiling is “intentional,” there was no “government interest,” fails “to prove substantial justification for such activities,” etc., etc. If the person can show there was a better way to do it, the city has violated the law.

Well, folks, we don’t know what that all means. It’s poorly written, and it’s not clear what the purpose really is. There’s also a bit of nanny state feel to the bill. Let’s face it, policing is a tough job, and cops need tools to do it right. On the other hand, we do have a fairly effective document called the U.S. Constitution. There are a lot of problems with stop and frisk, but this bill ain’t going to solve them.

Still, based on an analysis we did in January, the Vallone estimate seems over-wrought. In January, there were 35 federal lawsuits filed on stop and frisk.

Extrapolated out, that means about 400 such lawsuits will be filed this year. Let’s say they settle for an average of $50,000, a number which is likely high. Most suits against the city settle for a lesser amount. Based on that, the city will spend about $20 million to settle stop and frisk lawsuits filed this year — far less than Vallone’s number.


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