Federal Judge: NYC Stop And Frisk Violates The 4th Amendment

from the yeah,-no-kidding dept

For anyone who might not know already, New York City’s infamous stop and frisk program is the completely useless policy of the police department to go around randomly molesting anyone they deem to be suspicious, or more correctly described as brown-skinned. It appears that everyone who isn’t a member of the NYPD or the current mayor of New York hates this program as much as I do, including AG Eric Holder and the NY City Council. Still, that didn’t keep Chuck Schumer from trying to export this interracial softcore porn policy to the federal level by recommending Police Chief Ray Kelly as the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly’s resume, however, may take a bit of a hit.

That’s because a federal judge recently declared that the stop and frisk program violated tens of thousands of people’s constitutional rights, which is the kind of thing that most folks frown on.

In a decision issued on Monday, the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled that police officers have for years been systematically stopping innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. Officers often frisked these people, usually young minority men, for weapons or searched their pockets for contraband, like drugs, before letting them go, according to the 195-page decision.

These stop-and-frisk episodes, 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, according to the ruling. It also found violations with the 14th Amendment.

Now, it’s worth noting that Scheindlin didn’t order that the program be stopped immediately or set a time and date for Mayor Bloomberg’s lobotomy, which I found disappointing, but instead has appointed an outside legal counsel to oversee the police department and ensure that any random stopping and frisking of citizens is done constitutionally. That means no stops without reasonable suspicion. The problem, however, has been how police officers thus far have fudged their own reports on why they were stopping people.

While the Supreme Court has long recognized the right of police officers to briefly stop and investigate people who are behaving suspiciously, Judge Scheindlin found that the New York police had overstepped that authority. She found that officers were too quick to deem as suspicious behavior that was perfectly innocent, in effect watering down the legal standard required for a stop.

Obviously no outside legal overseer is going to be able to witness any sizable number of these stops, meaning there is a high likelihood that officers will continue to manufacture suspicion that is unfounded. In addition, it’s well known that police officers consider themselves members of a fraternal organization, with all of the implications such a membership carries with it. How accurate a picture this outside counsel will get of these stops moving forward is an open question with a likely problematic answer.

That’s why, while we should all be pleased that Judge Scheindlin ruled against stop and frisk, I think it would have been far better to scrap it entirely and make police play by the rules that are already prescribed by our constitution.

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Comments on “Federal Judge: NYC Stop And Frisk Violates The 4th Amendment”

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silverscarcat (profile) says:

Oh please, Mike, you hope for too much.

We’re just peons. Our lords and masters are gracious enough to allow us to live. Why, if they killed us, we should be THANKFUL that they did so, because they have decided, in their elite, superior wisdom, that we would be better off serving the planet as fertilizer or something like that.

I mean, they get their own brand of justice, where they can violate every law known to man, and not serve any time in prison or pay any fines, while the rest of us are forced to pay for their crimes like normal people.

That One Guy (profile) says:

High court vs. Low court

So a judge finds them to have violated the people’s constitutional rights thousands of times over the past years, and rather than actually doing anything real to stop it, merely assigns someone to provide ‘oversight’ to hopefully keep them from doing it again.

And of course given they’ve received nothing more serious than a ‘And don’t let me catch you doing it again!’ from the judge, what reason exactly do they have not to just ignore the ‘oversight’ person/group and carry on as normal? After all if this ruling is anything to go by, at most they could expect a stern warning, maybe a strongly written admonishment, but noting actually serious.

Amazing what you can get away with when you’ve got enough power…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: High court vs. Low court

We’re all just inmates in this jail called America. This is a token nod of public servant accountability to the public in order to keep the masses calm when it comes time to take this nationwide when Ray Kelly or his twin under another name takes over Homeland Security. They’ll use this “oversight” as a talking point and hype its effectiveness way beyond the realm of reality to keep the masses from organizing in their outrage, in the slow yet steady erosion of pretense that we still live in a free and civil society. This is the same playbook as the NSA spying scandal’s supporters work from. A part of the same effort to usher in the golden age of totalitarianism.

DCX2 says:

Here are some facts for the people who might want the numbers. These statistics are a little old, being from 2009, but they paint a pretty good picture.

575,000 people were stopped in NYC in 2009, and of those 325,000 people were subsequently frisked. Approximately 250,000 of these searches turned up precisely nothing – a quarter million innocent people, stopped and frisked. About 64,000 people were arrested or issued a summons, indicating a false positive rate for stops of 89%.

The racial breakdown in NYC is about 47% white, 27% latino, 26% black. The racial breakdown of those who were stopped was 9% white, 31% latino, 53% black. So while whites are one out of every two people in NYC, they are one out of every ten stops. Oh yeah, 92% of those stopped are male.

But here’s the real kicker. This racial profiling is ostensibly okay because it’s the minorities who have all the drugs and weapons, right? But as it turns out, 2.4% of whites stopped have drugs or weapons, versus about 1.8% of blacks and latinos stopped.

LivingInNavarre (profile) says:

Constitution only

The part I found most interesting was a story that stated the judge ONLY looked at the Constitutionality of the policy…even though she does go on to mention that 88% of the stops resulted in releasing the individual with no further action.

To add to the popcorn debate Schumer was furious that they didn’t get a fair hearing in front of the judge.

I know I should insert some witty remark about pots, kettles and black but it’s not worth the effort.

New Mexico Mark says:

M.I.B. contrast

When I think of the characters in favor of the stop and frisk policy, I can’t help but think of the firing range test in M.I.B. Of course, that movie was pure fantasy, not because of the aliens and stuff but because it portrayed the NYPD cop as actually being the one character to think things through and NOT take preemptive action against most of the suspicious looking characters.

What a contrast.

Unfortunately, the bottom line today for most of the NYPD and their chain of command is summed up in this quote: “Gentlemen, congratulations. You’re everything we’ve come to expect from years of government training.”

Pio Szamel says:

verifying police allegations with body-cams

I def agree that police reports often have a, uh, questionable relationship with the facts, but it’s worth noting that the judge does at least propose a pilot program aimed at that problem: cops in a few precincts will be outfitted with cameras on their uniforms to record their interactions, providing something their allegations can be checked against. The police department is raising hell about this of course, but if it survives the inevitable appeal it could be interesting to see how it affects police behavior…

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