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Federal Judge Deems "Stop-And-Frisk" Unconstitutional

Victoria Johnson | 8/13/2013, 12:59 p.m.
After a two-month trial, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled the controversial "stop-and-frisk" practices ...

After a two-month trial, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled the controversial "stop-and-frisk" practices of the NYPD to be unconstitutional in the court case, Floyd, et. al. vs. The City of New York. The case was filed by four African-American men who were stopped and frisked and they argued that the procedure violated their constitutional rights.

Judge Scheindlin agreed and declared that "stop-and-frisk" violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects all individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Equal Protection Clause, which guarantees equal protection for every person and prohibits intentional discrimination based on race.

Stop-and-frisk began in 2004 and allows New York City police officers to stop and search any person they deem "suspicious." However, in the nine years since the law was implemented, the New York City Police Department has stopped 4.4 million New Yorkers, 83% of which were either Black or Latino. Ninety-eight percent of those who were stopped were found without a weapon.

"No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life," stated Judge Scheindlin in her decision.

Judge Scheindlin later stated that some of the plaintiffs testified that the stops made them feel "unwelcome" in some parts of the New York City and distrustful of the police.

"This alienation cannot be good for the police, the community, or its leaders. Fostering trust and confidence between the police and the community would be an improvement for everyone," Scheindlin said.

However, others, such as Carl Dix, a leader of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and long-time activist against "stop-and-frisk" stated that the ruling "doesn't go far enough" and that the ruling is "no reason to declare victory and wait for justice to be done." Instead he believes it has to go towards getting rid of "racist and illegitimate policing"

On the other hand, the NAACP said that this was a "groundbreaking victory."

"Judge Scheindlin recognized what the NAACP has been saying for years: the racial profiling tactic of stop-and-frisk has no place in our enlightened society,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “We hope that Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly will heed this decision and end their crude and abusive policy. We will continue to stand up with the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who marched with us last June and fight for the protections of the Community Safety Act.”

But it seems that the Mayor of New York City has no such plans.

Mayor Bloomberg, who has been a long-time supporter for stop-and-frisk and stated previously that he wanted "more Blacks and Latinos stopped" held a press conference shortly after the verdict was announced.

"Our [Mayor Bloomberg's and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's] crime strategies and tools including 'Stop, question, frisk' have made New York City the safest big city in America," Bloomberg said. "Because our police officers follow the law and follow the crime, they fight crime wherever crime is occurring and they don't worry if their work doesn't match up to a census chart."

Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly plan to appeal the federal judge's decision. Until the appeals process is over, the ruling against "stop-and-frisk" will not be effective.