A federal judge has ruled that the NYPD's stop-and-frisk procedure — which has become a means by which police can harass, search and detain people of color without suspicion or warrant — is unconstitutional. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that the program, which has expanded directly under Mayor Bloomberg (4.43M stops between 2008 and 2012), violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and was a form of racial profiling. The victims of stop-and-frisk were overwhelmingly young, nonwhite men, and the vast majority of stops were baseless and generated no arrests. White people, statistically more likely to be carrying weapons, faced less force than people of color. The judge has called for a federal monitor to oversee reforms to the program.
Judge Scheindlin found that the city "adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data." She rejected the city's arguments that more stops happened in minority neighborhoods solely because those happened to have high-crime rates.
"I also conclude that the city's highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner," she wrote.
Noting that the Supreme Court had long ago ruled that stop-and-frisks were constitutionally permissible under certain conditions, the judge stressed that she was "not ordering an end to the practice of stop-and-frisk. The purpose of the remedies addressed in this opinion is to ensure that the practice is carried out in a manner that protects the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much needed police protection."
Stop-and-Frisk Practice Violated Rights, Judge Rules [Joseph Goldstein/NYT]