Judge rules stop-and-frisk unconstitutional, discriminatory

David Ourlicht, one of the main plaintiffs in the landmark stop-and-frisk trial, got choked up at a press conference following a federal judge ruling the practice unconstitutional and discriminatory. Credit: Miles Dixon
David Ourlicht, one of the main plaintiffs in the landmark stop-and-frisk trial, got choked up at a press conference following a federal judge ruling the practice unconstitutional and discriminatory. Credit: Miles Dixon

The ruling from this year’s landmark stop-and-frisk trial is in: Judge Shira Scheindlin has declared the practice unconstitutional.

She has also taken the practical step that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have staunchly opposed and stop-and-frisk defenders have feared, instituting a federal monitor with oversight over the NYPD.

The rulings are available on the Center for Constitutional Rights’ website.

The case, Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al., was argued by city attorneys and CCR lawyers over two months earlier this year.

Scheindlin heard testimony from dozens of men of color recounting what they and the CCR deemed unreasonable and unwarranted — and ultimately humiliating — stops.

She also heard from NYPD officers called by the city to defend and justify the controversial practice.

In her ruling, Scheindlin landed on the side of those who were stopped, deeming the stops in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable search and seizure, and the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects the right to due process and equal protection under the law.

Scheindlin also charged that city officials “turned a blind eye” to the concrete evidence of racial discrimination by cops conducting stops.

“In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective,” Scheindlin wrote, “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 those constitutional violations, Scheindlin ordered several measures “including, but not limited to, an immediate change to certain policies and activities of the NYPD” as well as a “trial program” involving the use of small cameras to be worn by police officers.

She also ordered a “community-based joint remedial process to be conducted by a court-appointed facilitator” as well as an “independent monitor” with oversight over the NYPD to ensure her other mandates are carried out as ordered.

Proponents of the two “community safety act” bills in the City Council, one calling for an inspector general with oversight of the NYPD and the other expanding anti-profiling protections, said Scheindlin’s ruling won’t have any bearing on those bills because they address broader issues beyond solely stop-and-frisk.

Bloomberg vowed the city will appeal the ruling, but according to Baher Azmy, the legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, a “technical consideration” means the appeal can’t come immediately because of the multifaceted remedies ordered in Scheindlin’s ruling.

“Typically you can’t appeal until… the decision is final, and because there that the district judge is going to do in this case, they probably can’t yet appeal,” Azmy said.

But Bloomberg said the city will ask the court to stay the decision for the duration of the appeal, so the measures Scheindlin proposed may not be seen for some time.

That technicality didn’t dampen the spirits of the plaintiffs, however: several of the men who testified in the trial about being stopped and frisked spoke at an emotional press conference after the ruling, with one of the lead plaintiffs, David Ourlicht, tearing up at one point.

The plaintiffs expressed hope the decision could result in even more far-reaching changes to the NYPD.

“Many of us feel that this is important because this is the lowest form of police abuse,” said Lalit Clarkson, who testified in the trial about being stopped by plainclothes cops on his way to school. “If we can stop this, maybe we can stop some of the higher forms.”

 

UPDATE: The City Law Department said they are reviewing the decision to determine whether there is justification to appeal immediately as well as what part or parts of the decision warrant an appeal.

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat 


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Comments

1

  1. Stop and frisk does nothing to remove guns and drugs from the street.
    It removes men from the street.
    And removing men from the street does not address the issue of why men were carrying guns in the first place.
    Because of the drug war a portion of the population is denied the right to call the police when they are in distress. When someone steals your drugs or money earned selling drugs you cannot call the police. If you are robbed of other goods or assaulted and you have drugs on you or at home, you cannot call the police. This is the same for women who have been raped and is a major reason for women not reporting rape. This is also true if you do not do drugs but have a spouse or close family member who uses drugs.
    If you have anything to do with drugs you cannot call on the police for assistance and real criminals who would steal, rob, rape, kidnap and murder are much more likely to get away with it.
    Prohibition violates human rights on a mass scale and denies civil protection to targeted groups in the community.
    So people are forced to carry guns to provide their own security and justice and it is why people who carry drugs are also likely to carry guns.
    Prohibition forces violence and crime into the community.
    Prohibition is a “Crime against Humanity”.
    End the drug war, end stop and frisk and violence and crime will be significantly reduced.