New York’s ‘Stop and Frisk’ Policies Ruled Unconstitutional

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The New York Police Department’s controversial “stop and frisk” policies are unconstitutional, according to a 195-page decision issued by Judge Shira Scheindlin.

Scheindlin, a Federal District Court judge in Manhattan, ruled the practice, which has been widespread during Michael Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor, is a violation of the 4th and 14th Amendments.

In a separate ruling, Scheindlin laid out several remedial orders, including the appointment of attorney Peter Zimroth, of the firm Arnold & Porter, LLP, to oversee NYPD compliance.

The ruling stems from Floyd v. City of New York, a case in which Scheindlin heard testimony from many African-Americans who reported being stopped by police and searched. In her decision, Scheindlin said that NYPD officers have routinely stopped  and searched innocent people — frequently, young black men — for years, without reasonable cause. According to testimony from statistics experts, as many as 4.43 million stop and frisk searches may have occurred in New York from 2004 until the mid way through 2012.

Nearly nine out of 10 individuals searched, Scheindlin said, were released by officers without arrest or other citations. That percentage was so high that she believes there was likely no credible suspicion of criminal wrongdoing for the officers to stop such individuals at all.

The NYPD’s stop and frisk policies created a “self-perpetuating” cycle of minority arrests, Scheindlin said.

“A police department that has a practice of targeting blacks and Hispanics for pedestrian stops cannot defend itself by showing that all the stopped pedestrians were displaying suspicious behavior,” she wrote. “Indeed the targeting of certain races within the universe of suspicious individuals is especially insidious, because it will increase the likelihood of further enforcement actions against members of those races as compared to other races, which will then increase their representation in crime statistics.”


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