Monday, August 12, 2013

Federal Judge Rules Against NYPD's Stop-And-Frisk Tactics

Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin (left) ruled Monday that the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices violate the constitutional rights of blacks and Hispanics in NYC and amount to a "policy of indirect racial profiling." The Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that stop-and-frisk is constitutional under certain circumstances; Judge Scheindlin, while not ordering an end to stop-and-frisk, rejected the NYPD's tactics and called for monitoring and reform:

In her 195-page decision, Judge Scheindlin concluded that the stops, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, as well as the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

...“I also conclude that the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” she wrote, citing statements that Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, have made in defending the policy.

Judge Scheindlin ordered a number of remedies, including a pilot program in which officers in at least five precincts across the city will wear cameras on their bodies to record street encounters. She also ordered a “joint remedial process” — in essence, a series of community meetings — to solicit public comments on how to reform the department’s tactics.

...The judge found that the New York police were too quick to deem as suspicious behavior what was perfectly innocent, in effect watering down the legal standard required for a stop.

“Blacks are likely targeted for stops based on a lesser degree of objectively founded suspicion than whites,” she wrote.

...She emphasized what she called the “human toll of unconstitutional stops,” noting that some of the plaintiffs testified that their encounters with the police left them feeling that they did not belong in certain areas of the city. She characterized each stop as “a demeaning and humiliating experience.”

2 comments:

Michael J. Mand said...

I oppose the "stop and frisk" tactics of the NYPD based upon the fourth amentdment's prohibition against unreasonable search, and, more importantly, Judge Scheindlin's recognition of "the human toll of unconstitutional stops". However, when search is reasonable, you would expect that the profiles of those searched should mimic the profile of those committing crimes. And, if the statistics quoted remain uncontested, lack of effectiveness is not a good argument against the policy. I refer you to this letter to the editors of The New York Times:

Re “Racial Discrimination in Stop-and-Frisk” (editorial, Aug. 13):

You need to do some old-fashioned utilitarian calculations on the relative pleasures and pains associated with stop-and-frisk. How much humiliation and ill will caused by the practice counterbalances the value of a life preserved by the confiscation of an illegal gun?

Further, to be unconstitutional, a search must be “unreasonable.” It is not clear that searching a person apparently trying to conceal his identity and having a bulge under his coat in a high-crime neighborhood would be unreasonable.

Finally, you write that “88 percent of the 4.4 million stops resulted in no further action — meaning a vast majority of those stopped were doing nothing wrong.” But a medical test that detected a lethal but potentially curable disease 12 percent of the time would be considered a major contribution to public health.

DAVID S. HODES
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., Aug. 13, 2013

The writer is a retired pediatrician.

(End of copy)

Although, Dr. Hodes' first two points are arguable, it is his final point that caught my attention.

Jeff Tone said...

Lack of effectiveness has to be taken into consideration. It is not viable to continually stop and frisk vast numbers of people on contestable reasons. "Concealing identity," Judge Scheindlin noted, includes "furtive movements": "being fidgety, changing directions, walking in a certain way, grabbing at a pocket or looking over one’s shoulder"-criteria that she didn't find valid. Further, a "bulge" is often a wallet. Let the police stop people based on reasonable suspicion. Treating an entire population as a "potentially curable disease" results in racial profilinf=g.