U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin handed down her ruling on the New York City Police Department’s Stop and Frisk Policy. In her official summary, Judge Sheindlin found the policy unconstitutional calling it a “form of racial profiling’ and a violation of the Fourth and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendments rights of minorities in New York City. From the official transcript:
In conclusion, I find that the City is liable for violating plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The City acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks. Even if the City had not been deliberately indifferent, the NYPD’s unconstitutional practices were sufficiently widespread as to have the force of law. In addition, the City adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data. This has resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites. For example, once a stop is made, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband. 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. 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.
The ruling does not end the program. In a separate opinion, the judge ordered federal monitoring and, among other remedies, a pilot program in which officers in at least five precincts across the city will wear cameras on their bodies to record street encounters.
Naturally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley reacted angrily claiming that the city did not get a fair trail:
“The judge conveyed a disturbing disregard for the good intentions of our officers, who form the most diverse police department in the US,” he said during a press conference Monday. It was a “dangerous” decision by the judge, Bloomberg added, while claiming that the policy had helped bring down crime in New York.
Kelly was likewise forthright in his condemnation of the judge’s ruling, describing it as “disturbing” and “highly offensive”. He rejected the claim that his officers had engaged in racial profiling. “This is simply, recklessly untrue,” he said, though he added that he had not yet read the ruling because he had spent the morning having dental work done.
It’s unknown of this ruling will effect President Barack Obama’s high opinion of Comm. Kelley and take e him out of contention for the head of Homeland Security.
The mayor vowed to appeal but he will be out of office at midnight on December 31 of this year. Hopefully the new mayor will have drop the appeal and work harder to protect the rights of NYC’s minority residents and their safety.
The best line of Judge Scheindlin’s ruling is her last one:
” I conclude with a particularly apt quote: “The idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what Americans find abhorrent and what black men in America must constantly fight. It is pervasive in policing policies – like stop-and-frisk, and . . . neighborhood watch regardless of the collateral damage done to the majority of innocents. It’s like burning down a house to rid it of mice.”