A federal judge rejected the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy Monday. Judge Shira Scheindlin found that the practice, which gives police the power to stop and search any person they believe to be suspicious, violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York City.
While proponents, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg, are adamant that stop-and-frisk is directly responsible for New York’s declining murder rate, civil rights advocates decry the racial disparity of the stops. Blacks and Latinos made up roughly 83 percent of stops between 2004 and 2012.
Stop-and-frisk is directly responsible for making New York the marijuana arrest capital of the world. More people are arrested in New York for minor marijuana violations (440,000 under Bloomberg’s tenure) than in any other city – and 87 percent of those busted for pot in NYC are black or Latino.
In addition to ruining the lives of those swept up by the system, the practice also pulled police away from investigating more serious crimes. Earlier this year, the Drug Policy Alliance released a report that estimated the NYPD spent one million hours on low-level pot cases.
Judge Scheindlin found that the NYPD used a “policy of indirect racial profiling” routinely stopping “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.”
Unfortunately, despite finding that the practice “demonstrated widespread disregard” for the Fourth and 14th Amendments, Judge Scheindlin did not order an end to stop-and-frisk.
Judge Scheindlin concluded “that the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.”
A federal monitor was appointed to oversee the NYPD’s compliance with the Constitution. Judge Scheindlin also called for body cameras to be worn by some officers and community meetings to solicit ideas from the public on how to fix the department’s problems.
Mayor Bloomberg did not take the decision well. He accused the judge of intentionally denying the city “a fair trial.” Vowing to appeal the decision Bloomberg insisted that Judge Scheindlin did “not understand how policing works,” and implied the judge did not understand the Constitution.
Bloomberg added that he hopes stop-and-frisk continues throughout his time in office because he “wouldn’t want to be responsible for a lot of people dying.”
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