The Police Department's use of stop and frisk is an unconstitutional violation of the rights of minorities, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Monday.
The police are indirectly racially profiling by stopping minorities at a much higher rate than whites, Judge Shira Scheindlin said, according to multiple published reports.
Scheindlin has for months been hearing a case brought by several people who contend they were wrongly stopped.
Reuters reported that in her decision, police have been frisking young minority men for weapons or searching them for drugs due to pressure from the administration to increase the number of stops, in violation of the constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly say stop and frisk, sometimes called stop, question and frisk, especially by its defenders, has been a key element in the major reduction in violent crime the city has seen.
The mayor said the city will appeal the decision, in a statement issued Monday afternoon. Claiming Scheindlin was biased against stop and frisk all along, Bloomberg said it has acted as a deterrent against carrying weapons and that the principles behind it have been upheld by the Supreme Court.
“Let’s be clear: People have a right to walk down the street without being targeted by the police — and we have a duty to uphold that right, which is why I’ve signed a law banning racial profiling, and it’s why the NYPD has intensified its training around stop-question-frisk," the mayor said. “But people also have a right to walk down the street without being killed or mugged. And for those rights to be protected, we have to give the members of our Police Department the tools they need to do their jobs without being micro-managed and second-guessed every day by a judge or a monitor."
Scheindlin ordered an independent monitor to implement several remedies she ordered, according to the Reuters report, including a written NYPD policy saying when stops should be conducted, the limited use of body cameras by police and "a community-based remedial process."
Bloomberg recently vetoed two City Council bills prompted by the furor over stop and frisk: one to establish an inspector general to oversee Police Department operations, and one that would make it easier to sue the department over wrongful stops, though not for monetary damages. The bills passed by veto-proof majorities, and the mayor reportedly is trying to get enough members to change their minds to avoid overrides.
Critics of stop and frisk quickly issued statements lauding Scheindlin's ruling.
“Today’s ruling by Judge Scheindlin declaring that police have overstepped their authority highlights the enormous flaws in the NYPD’s ‘stop and frisk’ tactic, which has served to undermine trust between communities and law enforcement," said Comptroller John Liu, a candidate for mayor, who last week had said New York's young people of color are living in a "police state" due to stop and frisk. "The judge’s call for reforms must be heeded, and — longer term — the tactic should be abolished. It’s time to put an end to stop and frisk once and for all.”
Communities United for Police Reform, an advocacy group, called the ruling a "victory for civil and constitutional rights and the safety of New Yorkers" in a statement from spokesperson Joo-Hyun Kang.
"The Bloomberg administration’s discriminatory policing practices, and failure to adequately understand the problems they create, have brought us to this point and we are pleased that justice has prevailed," Kang said. "New Yorkers want change and leadership committed to policing that helps keep all communities safe, reduces gun violence, and respects our fundamental rights — Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy has failed to accomplish these objectives."
Kang said the decision, along with the City Council legislation, collectively called the Community Safety Act, puts the city on "the right path towards equality and safety for all New Yorkers."
Mayoral candidate Joe Lhota dissented, urging the city to appeal Scheindlin's decision.
“Stop, question and frisk has been an invaluable tool keeping our city safe and saving lives," said Lhota, a Republican. "Our progress in reducing crime is fragile — this weekend the city had 17 shootings in a single day. Implementing a federal monitor will have a dramatic impact on proactive police work that we simply cannot allow to happen for the safety of all New Yorkers.”
This article was updated to include mayoral candidate Joe Lhota's comment in dissent.
Then it was updated to include the mayor's comments and pledge to appeal the decision.