Stop-and-Frisk reeks of racial profiling

United States District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin issued a groundbreaking decision declaring that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) implements its controversial stop-and-frisk policy in an unconstitutional manner and violates the rights of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Judge Scheindlin ordered sweeping reforms – including an independent monitor to oversee the NYPD – to fix the problems.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”), with co-counsel the Legal Aid Society, has filed a related lawsuit, Davis v. City of New York, on behalf plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the NYPD’s policy and practice of stopping and arresting public housing residents and their guests for the purported crime of trespassing. LDF’s case is scheduled for a jury trial before Judge Scheindlin in October.

In her decision, Judge Scheindlin found that the NYPD encourages the targeting of young Black and Latino men based on crime statistics, which is a form of racial profiling in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Between January 2004 and June 2012, 83 percent of all individuals stopped by NYPD officers were Black and Latino despite the fact that they comprise only 52 percent of New York City’s population. Judge Scheindlin also found that NYPD officers routinely stopped New Yorkers without reasonable suspicion in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. Only 12 percent of all stops led to an arrest or summons.

“Judge Scheindlin’s ruling is a historic recognition of the NYPD’s entrenched discriminatory practices that have violated the rights of Black and Latino New Yorkers for decades,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s president and director-counsel. Although the ruling does not abolish the practice of stop and frisk, it mandates major changes in the way the policy is implemented to ensure that police officers do not discriminate when conducting stops. Additionally, Judge Scheindlin has required an independent monitor to supervise the NYPD and input from numerous stakeholders, including members of the community where stops most often take place.

“The idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what Americans find abhorrent and what Black men in America must constantly fight,” Judge Scheindlin wrote in her decision. “It is important to recognize the human toll of unconstitutional stops. . . No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life.”

“In the related Davis case, the NYPD’s discriminatory practices are especially pernicious because they are implemented in people’s homes under the guise of criminal trespass enforcement,” said Johanna B. Steinberg, senior counsel in LDF’s Criminal Justice Practice.

NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is a leading voice in the struggle to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF has been recognized as the nation’s finest civil rights law firm. Although initially affiliated with the NAACP, LDF has been an entirely separate organization since 1957.

The Legal Aid Society (LAS) is a private, not-for-profit legal services organization, the oldest and largest in the nation, dedicated since 1876 to providing quality legal representation to low-income New Yorkers. It is dedicated to one simple but powerful belief: that no New Yorker should be denied access to justice because of poverty.

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