Monday, a federal judge ruled that New York’s controversal Stop and Frisk law is unconstitutional due to the law’s unlawful targeting of blacks and Latinos.
Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, ruling on a class-action lawsuit, wrote that the policy violated plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights barring unreasonable searches, finding that police made at least 200,000 stops from 2004 to June 2012 without reasonable suspicion.
She also found evidence of racial profiling, violating plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment rights guaranteeing equal protection.
“The city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” Scheindlin wrote. “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.”
In her ruling, Scheindlin said more than 80% of the stops involved blacks or Hispanics. The NYPD made more than 4.4 million total stops under the policy from 2004 to June 2012.
She wrote that the NYPD carried out more stops where there were more black and Hispanic residents, at a rate disproportionate with crime rates. She also wrote that the department has an unwritten policy of targeting “the right people” for stops — encouraging, in practice, the targeting of young blacks and Hispanics based on their prevalence in local crime complaints.
“No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life,” she wrote. “Those who are routinely subjected to stops are overwhelmingly people of color, and they are justifiably troubled to be singled out when many of them have done nothing to attract the unwanted attention.”
What she ordered:
— She appointed Peter Zimroth, a former chief assistant district attorney in Manhattan, to develop and oversee near-term reforms, including changes to the NYPD’s policies and training.
— In a pilot project, NYPD patrol officers in five precincts — one per borough — must wear video cameras. The chosen precincts would be those with the most stops in 2012. “The recordings should … alleviate some of the mistrust that has developed between the police and the black and Hispanic communities,” and “will be equally helpful to members of NYPD who are wrongly accused of inappropriate behavior,” Scheindlin wrote.
— Other, longer-term reforms would come after community input.
New York Police commissioner Ray Kelly say Scheindlin’s finding of racial profiling “disturbing and offensive.”
Kelly also says racial profiling doesn’t happen.
“We do not engage in racial profiling. It is prohibited by law,” Kelly said. “We train our officers that they need reasonable suspicion to make a stop, and I can assure you that race is never a reason to conduct a stop.”
The policy “is certainly a tool that every police officer needs throughout America,” Kelly said.
“If you see something suspicious, you pay your police officers to ask a question, stop to inquire. To the extent that this significantly impacts on that, I think you’re going to have a problem, not only here, but across America.”
Bloomberg defends the policy while also agreeing that poor minorities are the targets, but due to crime statistic and not race alone.
Bloomberg said the policy was one of a number of programs that helped the city’s murder rate drop — it’s 50% below the rate when he took office nearly 12 years ago, he said.
The mayor said “we want to match the stops to where the reports of crime are.”
“One of the problems we have in our society today is that victims and perpetrators of crime are (disproportionately) young minority men — that’s just a fact,” he said. “If there’s any administration that’s ever worked hard on that, I think it’s ours … we’re trying to do something about it.
“That has nothing to do with, however, where we stop people. We go to where the reports of crime are. Those unfortunately happen to be poor neighborhoods and minority neighborhoods. But that’s not the original objective or the intent or how we get there. We get there when there’s a crime reported, and we will continue to do that.”
“You’re not going to see a change in tactics overnight,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters Monday, saying it would take time to implement the judge’s changes even if an appellate court doesn’t temporarily halt it.
Asked if he hopes an appeal will delay the order until he leaves office next year, Bloomberg said: “Boy, I hope so, because I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a lot of people dying.”
Although a ruling has been made, it looks like this fight is far from over.
For more on this, visit CNN.