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Ear to the Ground

NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Tactics Ruled Unconstitutional

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Posted on Aug 12, 2013
Michael Fleshman (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A protester holds a sign at a rally against state-sanctioned violence against people of color.

A federal judge ruled Monday that controversial “stop-and-frisk” searches—carried out by New York City police officers on predominantly black and Latino residents—are unconstitutional, and ordered that an independent, federal monitor be brought in to oversee reform.

The decision is a major victory for civil rights activists who have long argued that the practice amounts to racial profiling. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said the stops violate individuals’ right to privacy and equal treatment under the law. She said testimony led her to believe that the NYPD carries out more stops of blacks and Hispanics, “even when other variables are held constant.”

“This is so even in areas with low crime rates, racially heterogenous populations, or predominantly white populations,” Scheindlin ruled. “In practice,” she wrote in a 195-page ruling, “the policy encourages the targeting of young black and Hispanic men based on their prevalence in local crime complaints. This is a form of racial profiling.”

Over the past decade, roughly 5 million people have been stopped by the NYPD, The Guardian reports. The vast majority have been African-American or Latino, and roughly nine out of 10 have walked away without an arrest or a ticket.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Matt Williams and Ryan Devereaux at The Guardian:

Stop-and-frisk violated an individual’s right to protection under the fourth and 14th amendments of the constitution, Scheindlin concluded. She called for an “immediate” change to the policy, and the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure that the NYPD carries out stop-and-frisks in accordance with the US constitution.

Peter Zimroth, a one-time city lawyer and a former chief assistant district attorney, was named as the monitor, tasked with making sure adequate changes are made to the policing policy. He will work closely with the NYPD in implementing the new procedures, the judge said.

The verdict follows a two-and-a-half month trial resulting from a federal class action lawsuit filed by four African American men in 2008. They claimed to represent hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers unlawfully stopped by the NYPD.

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