Stop-and-Frisk Policy Violates Constitutional Right, Rules Judge

Today, a federal judge has ruled that tens of thousands of New Yorkers have had their constitutional rights violated by the stop-and-frisk policy. The stop-and-frisk policy allowed police officers to stop citizens in the street and frisk them for contraband substances, such as drugs, or weapons without any objective reason for the search. The judge has also called for a federal monitor to oversee the reforms required in this area.

The judge decided, in a 195 page decision, that these searches blatantly ignored the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by government officials. She also found that there had been some violations of the 14th amendment, which addresses equal protection and citizenship rights.

The judge has, however, not ruled to end this practice, but has ruled that there must be conformity with the constitution.  She said her goal is "to ensure that the practice is carried out in a manner that protects the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much needed police protection."

To ensure compliance with the constitution, Judge Shira A. Sheindlin intends to designate an outside lawyer to monitor the Police Department’s compliance with the constitution. She has at this time named Peter L. Zimroth, a partner in the New York office of Arnold & Porter, LLP, and a former corporation counsel and prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, for this post. His appointment will leave the department under a certain degree of judicial control which may well shape the policies of the department under the next mayor.

City lawyers argued that the department has done a good job of policing itself and cited checks such as the internal affairs bureau, a civilian complaint board and quality assurance divisions.

This ruling, in Floyd v City of New York, follows a two month non-jury trial this year over the stop-and-frisk policy in the city.  The four male claimants argued that they had been unfairly targeted because of their race, according to the AP.  

In the past decade there have been approximately five million people stopped, and most of these have been either black or Hispanic males. New York's finest stopped and interrogated people 684,330 times in 2011, according to The Wall Street Journal. 92 percent of those stopped were males, and 87% of those were black or Hispanic males.

The stop-and-frisk policy has been a major element of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s crime-fighting policy.