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CNN Legal Analyst: Stop and Frisk Ruling a 'Nightmare'

By    |   Tuesday, 13 August 2013 06:00 PM

A judge’s ruling that New York City’s stop-and-frisk program is unconstitutional is a "nightmare" which ends an effective police tool that helped transform the city from the crime-ridden sewer pit it once was, CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan believes.

"It’s a total nightmare," Callan told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"When I tell stories to younger people, people under the age of say, 40, about what life was like in New York in the '70s and the '80s, their eyes widen and they're shocked."

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He recalled how subway windows trains were so covered in graffiti, strangers couldn’t tell what station they were at until the doors opened.

And he said homeless people littered the streets using the sidewalks as bathrooms.

"You go out for a carton of milk as I did on East 41st Street … [and] I had a gun put in my back in a very well-known grocery story in the early 1980s. Times Square was just crime every place," he said.

Callan said the reason New York was able to make a transformation into one of the world’s safest cities is the "aggressive" approach it used "getting the bad guys off the street, getting the guns off the street.

"Compare us to Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Ga., Washington, D.C. – all very dangerous cities with less aggressive policing."

He said he was unclear by what U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin meant when she ruled the stop-and-frisk policy resulted in indirect discrimination against minorities, particularly African Americans.

"I don't know what she means by indirect discrimination. it seems to me if you're a racist and you discriminate, you do it either directly or you don't do it at all," Callan said.

"Sadly, 70 to 80 percent of [shooting] victims are black and Hispanics. So needless to say when the police are out trying to get a shooter, they're going to be more likely to stop someone who's a minority – after all 70 percent of the shooters are minorities – than Caucasians."

Callan, a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, also took issue with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to overturn decades-old "mandatory minimum prison sentences" for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders — a hallmark of Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs.

"He is breaking the law . . . I disagree with a lot of these drug laws. Some of them, the penalties are too harsh. But we have a democracy and in this democracy, these laws were voted in by a majority of the electorate," Callan said.

"They were voted in largely because during the crack epidemic, the criminals were largely the people who were using these drugs and these laws were designed not just to get a street user, but to get the guy who was selling this poison to people, particularly in minority communities."

Callan said for the Justice Department to now say the law can be ignored "may be illegal, but it's certainly immoral and it's certainly undemocratic."

But little can be done to fight Holder’s edict, according to Callan.

"If Holder doesn't want to enforce these laws, he's not going to and … guess who's going to be running the New York City Police Department if we follow this federal judge's order? Holder and the Justice Department," he said.

"They're going to be putting cameras on cops on the streets to discourage [them] from having interactions with people they think are criminal and how do you think the average cop on the street's going to act?

"It's very easy for him to go and have a doughnut and a cup of coffee as opposed to risking his life stopping somebody who he thinks is a bad guy, risking his career and a lawsuit. And it all comes back to Eric Holder and the Obama administration in the end."

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A judge's ruling that New York City's stop-and-frisk program is unconstitutional is a nightmare which ends an effective police tool that helped transform the city from the crime-ridden sewer pit it once was, CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan believes.
Tuesday, 13 August 2013 06:00 PM
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