Judge Rules "Stop-and-Frisk" Unconstitutional

Heather Ginsberg

8/12/2013 11:20:00 AM - Heather Ginsberg

Remember the 4th amendment which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government? Well apparently Mayor Bloomberg forgot about that when he instituted the stop-and-frisk tactics back in 2004. Well today a federal judge ruled that these practices by the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of New Yorkers and called for a federal monitor to oversee reform efforts.

According to the New York Times:

In a decision issued on Monday, the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled that police officers have for years been systematically stopping innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. Officers often frisked these people, usually young minority men, for weapons or searched their pockets for contraband, like drugs, before letting them go, according to the 195-page decision.

These stop-and-frisk episodes, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, according to the ruling. It also found violations with the 14th Amendment.

To fix the constitutional violations, Judge Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan said she intended to designate an outside lawyer, Peter L. Zimroth, to monitor the Police Department’s compliance with the Constitution.

In order to decide the case, the judge listened to testimony from about a dozen black or biracial men and women who had been stopped. She also heard from statistical experts who had reviewed police paperwork from 4.43 million stops between 2004 and 2012. Several police officers testified as well, even though most of those testimonies supported the legality of the stops saying that they were made only when officers suspected criminal activity.

Although the Supreme Court has already ruled that police officers have the right to briefly stop and question people who are behaving suspiciously, the judge in this case found that the New York police hashad overstepped. “She noted that about 88 percent of the stops result in the police letting the person go without an arrest or ticket, a percentage so high, she said, that it suggests there was not a credible suspicion to suspect the person of criminality in the first place.”

Not only did these laws violate citizens’ constitutional rights, they allowed for authority figures (the police) to abuse their power. Luckily the judge chose to side with liberty in this case.