Monday, August 12, 2013. New York City – In a landmark decision today, a federal court found the New York City Police Department’s highly controversial stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional. In her thorough, 198-page ruling, Judge Shira Sheindlin found the NYPD’s practices to violate New Yorkers’ Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and also found that the practices were racially discriminatory in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
To remedy the widespread constitutional violations, the judge ordered a court-appointed monitor to oversee a series of reforms to NYPD policing practices and also ordered a Joint Remedial Process which will solicit input from a variety of stakeholders, including New York communities most directly affected by policing.
CCR Senior Staff Attorney Darius Charney, said “The NYPD is finally being held to account for its longstanding illegal and discriminatory policing practices. The City must now stop denying the problem and partner with the community to create a police department that protects the safety and respects the rights of all New Yorkers.”
In concluding that the City is liable for a widespread pattern and practice of stops and frisks in violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of all New Yorkers, the Court explained: “[The City has] received both actual and constructive notice since at least 1999 of widespread Fourth Amendment violations occurring as a result of the NYPD’s stop and frisk practices. Despite this notice, they deliberately maintained and even escalated policies and practices that predictably resulted in even more widespread Fourth Amendment violations. . . . The NYPD has repeatedly turned a blind eye to clear evidence of unconstitutional stops and frisks.”
The court found the NYPD guilty of violating both the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits racially discriminatory policing, and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.
“The Court correctly recognized that the City’s unconstitutional practices date back to at least 1999, and that the overwhelming evidence at trial demonstrated that the City expressly relies on race – not reasonable suspicion – to make decisions about whom to stop and frisk. The opinion sends a strong, national message that racial profiling is unconstitutional as well as devastating to communities of color,” said co-counsel Jonathan Moore of Beldock, Levine and Hoffman.
The Court also concluded that powerful evidence at trial proved the City intentionally discriminates against Black and Latino New Yorkers: “Under the NYPD’s policy, targeting the ‘right people’ means stopping people in part because of their race. Together with Commissioner Kelly’s statement that the NYPD focuses stop and frisks on young blacks and Hispanics in order to instill in them a fear of being stopped, and other explicit references to race . . . there is a sufficient basis for inferring discriminatory intent.”
The Floyd case, filed in 2008, stems from the earlier racial profiling case, Daniels, et al. v. City of New York, et al. that led to the disbanding of the infamous Street Crime Unit and a settlement with the City in 2003.
The judge called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms, including the use of body-worn cameras for some patrol officers, but she was “not ordering an end to the practice of stop-and-frisk.”
Judge Scheindlin said “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.” New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the NYPD commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, have defended the policy. They have said Stop and Frisk “save lives”. New York City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine C. Quinn has said she wants Raymond Kelly as her NYPD Commissioner, if she wins the election.
Bloomberg said in a press conference with Ray Kelly, “You’re not going to see any change in tactics overnight.”
Kelly described the judge’s ruling as “disturbing” and “highly offensive”. He rejected the claim that his officers had engaged in racial profiling.
Bloomberg said the city will file an appeal against the Judge’s decision. He said he hoped the appeal process would allow the current stop-and-frisk practices to continue through the end of his administration.
“We won against stop-and-frisk, but policing in New York needs to change. I’ve trained with the NYPD and respect their job, but thousands of New Yorkers like me can’t live treated as criminals every day,” said Leroy Downs
Brittny Saunders started the online petition: “Tell Obama: Don’t Put Ray Kelly, Mr. Stop-And-Frisk, in Charge of Homeland Security.” So far, it has more than 17,000 signatures.
The petition says in part, “Dear President Obama: Ray Kelly is not qualified to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Please don’t do this to us.
President Obama recently said that NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has “been an outstanding leader in New York” and is “well-qualified” to run the Department of Homeland Security.
Growing up in Brooklyn, I was stopped by the NYPD at least 60 times before my 18th birthday. They never told me what I was doing wrong. In NYC, if you’re a young black or Hispanic man like me, you fit the target description.
As President Obama explained powerfully on Friday, racial profiling is painful and degrading. And for people like Sean Bell and Trayvon Martin, it is deadly. Now I’m a father myself and I don’t want the same thing happening to my kids.”
During the Bloomberg administration, more than five million people have been stopped by the NYPD under stop-and-frisk. 9 out of 10 people didn’t get a ticket or were arrested. Some people who were arrested or issued a summons after being stopped and frisked — later were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. Have you ever been stopped and frisked by the NYPD? Share your story with The Guardian.
People on social networks expressed their opinions about the Judge decision.
Cynical007 wrote, “So searching someone’s pockets without due cause is unconstitutional, but spying on their financial transactions, medical records, and communications with family members is just fine? Still, at least the Fourth Amendment still means something in the physical world.”
Unclepickles said, “Finally! Now if only the Supreme Court can repeal the insidious Patriot Act. This is indeed a very shameful period in our history. Not a good time to be an American. There’s hope. At least this judge exhibited some sense & humanity.”
Macktan894 wrote, “Stop and frisk, whether it occurs online or on the street, violates the 4th amendment. All those millions who were unconstitutionally stopped & manhandled ought to sue the police department. From now on, if you are stopped and frisked, you should document it–get the badge number and record your comments at that event. Then see your nearest attorney.”
Chuck Nasmith wrote, “Great news indeed. Obama has mentioned wanting NYPD Ray Kelly to run Homeland Security. Free Bradley Manning. Free all of us from the NSA.”
Tony Glover wrote, I cried reading Scheindlin’s decision.
He also said, “It is the first time in a long time I have read anything so officious that so clearly validates my experience, born and raised as a Black male living in New York City.
The affect that being watched due to my skin color has had upon me can barely be described. It is so deleterious, so pernicious, so violating, so omnipresent.
It is no wonder more Black men do not go mad from the constant surveillance and suspicion — the presumption that, since you exist, you are criminal.
Sometimes the profiling is by the police. Other examples are as well known: the white woman who shirks when all I am about to do is nod hello; the cab driver speeding past my hail; the store owner’s omnipresent stare.
On some days, the weight of it all forces me to a place where I WANT to become Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” for it seems I am forever noticed, for the wrong reason. Today is not one of those days.
I wish I could go to Judge Scheindlin and in earnest embrace her. Not just for me, but for some I know who never made it. The history of injustices never reversed forced tears to well inside me when I read her decision that made visible my pain.
I am not be profiled by the police, or anyone, as so much scum to be washed down the drain. I am Black, male and, today, unbowed by the caricature of a hooligan too often hoisted upon me.
Today, I am nothing more than, nothing less than human. With rights
Thank you Judge Scheindlin.”
E. Rodriguez wrote, “Those that believe stop and frisk lowered crime rates and has any discernible effect I have a personal story for you. I was 14 years old and a group of my cousins (all Latino) and friends were on our way to the park with a basketball in hand to innocently play basketball, no more than a few yards away from my apartment were we stopped by an undercover officer in body armor with a few other officers, yelled and sweared at us to get up against the wall, and searched us for no reason at all, found nothing, and after 10 humiliating minutes let’s us go. Guess who was walking across the street and wasn’t stopped? A local gang member and drug dealer, someone who continues to deal drugs in that neighborhood to this day. My story might just be anecdotal but clearly the stats show that it happens to millions of others in New York City.”
New York City Comptroller John Liu said in 2012 that the NYPD’s high usage of stop-and-frisk makes some neighborhoods feel like they’re under martial law and it’s racial profiling. He wants the policy to be abolished.
How did 19-year-old Jateik Reed end up bloody and handcuffed on a Bronx street? His lawyer says it was a classic case of illegal Stop-and-Frisk gone terribly wrong.
Videos of the protests for the killing of Kimani “Kiki” Gray by NYPD Sgt. Mourad Mourad and Officer Jovaniel Cordova. Kimani was 16 year old when he was killed on Saturday, March 9th, 2013 on East 52 Street in the neighborhood of East Flatbush. Brooklyn, NYC. The stop was part of the “Stop and Frisk” program. Bloomberg and Kelly say this policy “save lives”.
On 6/22/2013, Rockaway residents, community groups and stop and frisk activists demand the community, and the youth in particular, stop being treated as criminals.
On 7/19/2013, activists held a demonstration in Bedford Stuyvesant and marched to the 67th precinct in Flatbush, Brooklyn in support of Trayvon Martin and other victims of racial profiling. They demand the end of Stop and Frisk.
On 8/8/2013, Democracy Now reported that “In a settlement with the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York City Police Department agreed to stop storing the names of people who were arrested or issued a summons after being stopped and frisked — and later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
For years, police have used the database to target New Yorkers for criminal investigations, even though it includes people who were victims of unjustified police stops. Since 2002, the police department has conducted more than five million stops and frisks. The vast majority of those stopped have been black and Latino. According to the police department’s own reports, nearly nine out of 10 New Yorkers stopped and frisked have been innocent.”
Amy Goodman spoke to Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union about the settlement.
Kasiem Walters, a high school senior in Flatbush, Brooklyn, speaks about the countless stop-and-frisk experiences he and his friends have had over the years. From waiting outside a friend’s house on the walk to school, to giving high-fives and being mistaken for selling drugs, Kasiem dreams of a time when he and his community can look around and feel like citizens of New York, not criminals.
Democracy Now reports that “In a historic ruling, a federal court has ruled the controversial “stop-and-frisk” tactics used by New York City Police officers are unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin said police had relied on what she called a “policy of indirect racial profiling” that led officers to routinely stop “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.” In her almost 200-page order Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote, “No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life. … Targeting young black and Hispanic men for stops based on the alleged criminal conduct of other young black or Hispanic men violates the bedrock principles of equality.”
Listen to LeRoy Downs, Lalit Clarkson, Devin Almonor, Nicholas Peart, David Ourlicht, five of the eight plaintiffs in the stop-and-frisk lawsuit.
The adage “knowledge is power” is certainly true when it comes to protecting your rights. The NYCLU has an extensive library of “Know Your Rights” materials to help New Yorkers understand their rights and react effectively when their rights are under threat.
The court’s ruling follows a 10-week trial that concluded on May 20. The class action lawsuit, Floyd v. City of New York, was brought by the Center of Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the law firms of Beldock, Levine, and Hoffman and Covington & Burling, LLP.
To read today’s decision and learn more about the case, visit www.ccrjustice.org