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Queens Chronicle

Stop and frisk ruled unconstitutional

District court strikes down current police tactic as a violation of rights

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Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 5:17 am, Wed Dec 24, 2014.

On Monday a federal U.S. District Court judge ruled that stop and frisk, the controversial practice that allows police officers to stop and search any individual they deem suspicious, unconstitutional as it stands.

“… the City is liable for the violation of plaintiffs’ Fourth and 14th Amendment rights,” Judge Shira Scheindlin, who presided over the cases challenging the practice, wrote. “The idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what Americans find abhorrent and what black men in America must constantly fight. It is pervasive in policing policies — like stop and frisk, and … neighborhood watch — regardless of the collateral damage done to the majority of innocents. It’s like burning a house down to rid it of mice.”

The two cases at issue accused the NYPD of violating David Floyd’s and Jaenean Ligon’s Fourth and 14th Amendment rights.

As a result, Scheindlin designated Peter Zimroth, a former attorney for New York City, to be the federal monitor of the NYPD and oversee stop-and-frisk procedures. In addition, 5 percent of officers will have to wear body cameras temporarily so that stop-and-frisk procedures can be observed; a community-based policing policy must be drafted and amendments must be made to the current stop-and-frisk practices to ensure racial profiling is not being utilized.

The decision was not a surprising one as many elected officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, said months ago that Scheindlin would probably strike the policy down.

“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,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous wrote in response. “We hope that Mayor Bloomberg and Comissioner 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.”

The act comprises a pair of police oversight bills the mayor recently vetoed and the Council plans to override.

The use of stop and frisk has become a heated discussion for many campaigns as it is alleged that the NYPD forces officers to fulfill a quota which has led to the disproportionate stopping of black and Latino men more than any other ethnic groups, despite the mayor having signed an antiracial profiling bill into law several years ago.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which has studied stop-and-frisk data in depth, reports that black and Latino New Yorkers make up nine out of 10 police stops, yet 94 percent do not uncover any criminal activity.

“The ruling issued by Judge Scheindlin only confirms what so many New Yorkers already know, that the way stop, question and frisk has been implemented is a violation of people’s constitutional rights,” Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said. “Not only have the police been targeting minority and LGBT communities, ignoring the fact that more weapons and contraband are confiscated when they stop white suspects, but the way they have treated residents when they are stopped has been demeaning and abusive.”

Other elected officials including mayoral candidates John Liu, Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson, as well as Anthony Weiner, gave similar responses.

Still, there were those who are deeply disappointed in the results.

“The NYPD already has 10 monitors and is the most diverse and best-trained police force in the country,” Councilman and borough president candidate Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said. “It is important to note that the judge is not saying that stop and frisk should be ended though, and as we move forward, we can agree that when it’s done constitutionally, it is a necessary tool.”

Vallone, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, added that the judge’s decision gives even less of a reason to vote the CSA into law. The act will be voted on again on Aug. 22.

Not surprisingly, Mayor Blooomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly were not happy with the judge’s decision.

“Every day Commissioner Kelly and I wake up determined to keep New Yorkers safe and save lives,” Bloomberg said at a press conference on Monday. “Our crime strategies and tools — including stop, question, frisk — have made New York City the safest big city in America and I’m happy to say we’re on pace for another record low number of shootings and homicides this year because our police officers follow the law and follow the crime.”

“What I find most disturbing and offensive about this decision is the notion that the NYPD engages in racial profiling,” Kelly said. “We do not engage in racial profiling. It is prohibited by law, it is prohibited by our own regulations. 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.”

Bloomberg and Kelly have maintained their arguments for years and the city plans to appeal the ruling. With the new monitor, a deeper investigation into stop-and-frisk procedures could very well reveal Bloomberg and Kelly’s assurances to be true but the two said they will not stand for it.

Bloomberg’s office would not comment on why he will not tolerate further investigations into policing, even if it might be discovered that racial profiling is not used, leading some to believe that he is trying to hide something.

“New Yorkers want change and leadership committed to policing that helps keep all communities safe, reduces guns, violence, and respects our fundamental rights — Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy has failed to accomplish these objectives,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), a prime sponsor of the CSA.

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