U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled today that New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy violated individuals’ constitutional rights. Judge Scheindlin found the policy to be in violation of both the Fourth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. From the official summary of her ruling:
In conclusion, I find that the City is liable for violating plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The City acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks. Even if the City had not been deliberately indifferent, the NYPD’s unconstitutional practices were sufficiently widespread as to have the force of law. In addition, the City adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data. This has resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites. For example, once a stop is made, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband. 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. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting “the right people” is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution.
To address these constitutional violations Judge Scheindlin has ordered independent monitoring of the NYPD to prevent future constitutional abuses in this area. In addition, Judge Scheindlin ordered a trial use of body-worn cameras in a small number of precincts and a community-based joint remedial program.
Stop-and-frisk has resulted in millions of stops of mostly minorities, with the vast majority of stops not resulting in arrests.
This a a real blow to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly who have been staunch defenders of their stop-and-frisk program.
Currently, Kelly is being seriously considered for the new head of the Department of Homeland Security by President Obama. The fact that Kelly has implemented a policy that is racially biased and unconstitutional should disqualify him from taking over such an important position.
Photo by Dave Hosford released under Creative Commons License