Bloomberg and Biden Both Lied During Debate About Who Ended Stop-and-Frisk, Says Judge Who Ruled Against Practice

Retired Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin accused both former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former Vice President Joe Biden of inaccurately taking credit for ending the controversial stop-and-frisk policy used by the New York Police Department.

Speaking Thursday to Ari Melber on his MSNBC program, The Beat, Scheindlin explained that she had ruled that the NYPD's version of stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional. The 1968 Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio legalized stop-and-frisk when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person being stopped has either committed a crime, is committing one or is about to—and a person can only be frisked if the officer believes they are in danger. However, Scheindlin ruled that the NYPD had been racially profiling the people officers stopped.

"That wasn't the case in these 5 million stops. In the vast majority, there was no reasonable suspicion. There really wasn't. It appeared to me, clear from the evidence, that what we had was racial profiling, going after a target group, which was young black males, 18 to 25. That's what was going on," Scheindlin said. "The stops were mostly dry—90 percent of these stops resulted in no further law enforcement action. The frisks produced very little, if anything—0.75 of 1 percent had anything, any contraband, any guns."

Scheindlin also clarified that though stop-and-frisk is most associated with Bloomberg's tenure as mayor, the policy was started by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani—though Bloomberg "expanded it enormously."

She said that during Wednesday evening's Democratic debate in Las Vegas, both Bloomberg and Biden had mischaracterized their roles in putting an end to stop-and-frisk.

"The one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, was how it turned out with stop-and-frisk," Bloomberg said during the debates Wednesday. "When I got into office, there were 650 murders a year in New York City. I thought that my first responsibility was to give people the right to live. That's the basic right of everything."

"Mayor Bloomberg said 'When I realized it was bad towards the end, I ended it and it dropped 95 percent,'" Scheindlin said. "That is not accurate. In the last two years or so, it began to drop dramatically, it dropped 67 percent, not 95 percent. But it wasn't because he realized—had an epiphany that it was wrong, it was because of the court rulings. That's what happened. I ruled."

Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg
Democratic presidential candidates former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg (L) and former Vice President Joe Biden speak during a break during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Paris Las Vegas on February 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mario Tama/Getty

Biden said that the administration of President Barack Obama had ended the practice by appointing a federal monitor, another claim that Scheindlin took issue with.

"Let's get something straight," Biden said. "The reason stop-and-frisk changed was because Barack Obama sent moderators to see what was going on. When we sent them there to say this practice has to stop, the mayor thought it was a terrible idea that we sent them there."

"Vice President Biden was totally wrong. He said the Obama administration appointed a federal monitor. Totally wrong. I appointed a federal monitor in August of 2013, who didn't take office for 10 months, because Mayor Bloomberg insisted on trying to appeal my ruling in getting it overturned," Scheindlin said.

New York's stop-and-frisk policy came to national attention after NYPD officer Adrian Schoolcraft released recordings to the Village Voice that documented orders from higher-ups to search and arrest young black men in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

In 2013, Bloomberg wrote an editorial in The Washington Post, saying that the policy kept New York City safe. Bloomberg added that the policy did not involve racial profiling and that he even signed a law banning racial profiling in 2004.

"Ninety percent of all people killed in our city—and 90 percent of all those who commit the murders and other violent crimes—are black and Hispanic," Bloomberg wrote at the time. "That the proportion of stops generally reflects our crime numbers does not mean, as the judge wrongly concluded, that the police are engaged in racial profiling; it means they are stopping people in those communities who fit descriptions of suspects or are engaged in suspicious activity."

Scheindlin ruled on August 12, 2013 that stop-and-frisk, as practiced by the NYPD, was unconstitutional. The city appealed, and on October 31 of that year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit removed Scheindlin from the case. However, in November, the federal appellate court rejected New York City's appeal, and her ruling was put into effect.