Stop-and-Frisk Ruled Unconstitutional, But It Won’t Stop

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images2012 Getty Images

A federal judge ruled today that the New York Police Department's trademark tactic of indiscriminately stopping and frisking men of color violates the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. "The NYPD's practice of making stops that lack individualized reasonable suspicion has been so pervasive and persistent as to become not only a part of the NYPD's standard operating procedure, but a fact of daily life in some New York City neighborhoods," wrote U.S. District Court judge Shira Scheindlin in an opinion that does not ban the practice but calls for a federal monitor to oversee it. The class-action suit Floyd v. City of New York lasted ten weeks and "readily established that the NYPD implements its policies regarding stop and frisk in a manner that intentionally discriminates based on race," according to Scheindlin.

"The City adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data," Scheindlin wrote in a nearly 200-page ruling. "This has resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause." She continued, "In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting 'the right people' is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution."

However, "I am not ordering an end to stop and frisk," Scheindlin added. Peter Zimroth, an attorney at Arnold & Porter, LLP, and a former Manhattan prosecutor, will be charged with making stop-and-frisks more in line with America's written rules. Every six months, for the foreseeable future, he will issue a report until "the City has achieved compliance."