On policing, New York should look to L.A.

Now that a federal court has ruled against its 'stop and frisk' policies, NYPD would be wise to learn from a reformed LAPD.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Monday insisted that his city's "stop and frisk" police practices were constitutional, despite a federal judge's finding that they were racially discriminatory and violated the 4th and 14th Amendments. But it's almost beside the point whether Bloomberg is on solid legal ground and whether his appeal can succeed. New York's confrontational approach to law enforcement has bought short-term results at the cost of alienation and resentment, and its leaders would be wise to let the trial court's ruling stand — and to learn a lesson from Los Angeles.

For decades, this city mastered the dark art of enforcement by intimidation. The Los Angeles Police Department cultivated an us-versus-them relationship with African American and other nonwhite neighborhoods and employed brutal tactics that, even when legally defensible, were destructive to the city. The daily affronts to residents' dignity, the car stops, the searches, the killer chokeholds, the sweeps and roundups, and the unequal and unjust treatment from officers stoked anger that resulted in violent outbursts in 1965 and 1992, and still couldn't keep gangs from growing or crime from bleeding into the white, well-to-do and formerly comfortable and confident areas of the city.

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