A Judge Stops and Frisks "Stop and Frisk"

Hon. Shira A Scheindlin has struck major blow to Michael Bloomberg's and Ray Kelly's racist and megalomaniacal "Stop and Frisk" policy. Bloomberg's and Kelly's policy acts in direct opposition to both the progress of our culture and of the laws they have sworn to uphold.

Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the United States District Court ruled today, August 12th, that New York City's controversial Stop and Frisk policy, which is largely the brainchild of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, has been carried out in a way that violates the 4th Amendment and the 14th Amendment constitutional rights of those people who have been stopped and frisked.

If you can even vaguely imagine yourself ever reading a court ruling, this is the one to start with.

The policy, in practice, has meant that around 4 million people have been stopped by NYPD officers in recent years largely on public streets, and, in the case of residents of housing projects, in the halls of their buildings. When stopped, officers search their clothing and person for weapons, drugs, and other contraband, without the need to prove reasonable suspicion. This is the violation of their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Those stopped have been disproportionately young, male, and worst of all, Black or Hispanic. It is this last piece of information which represents the breach of the plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment rights to be treated equally under the law regardless of race. Judge Scheindlin rightly connects this fact to the unofficial departmental rule to stop "the right people".

Judge Scheindlin, who's ruling, I must note, declares the way that Stop and Frisk is carried out, not the policy itself, to be unconstitutional, focuses mainly on a toxic culture within the NYPD which encourages the policy to be wrongly applied.

Proponents of the policy argue that it is justified largely in that it is a powerful tool for fighting crime and potential crime. But, says the ruling, that does not in itself justify its use. For, says Scheindlin, "Many police practices may be useful for fighting crime — preventive detention or coerced confessions, for example, but because they are unconstitutional they cannot be used, no matter how effective."

In addition, Scheindlin speaks out against the use of numerical quotas without regard to constitutional adherence. NYPD officers were routinely pressured to meet such quotas in terms of the amounts of stops and frisks that they carried out. She notes that "for the purposes of performance review [of police officers], an unconstitutional stop is no less valuable to an officer’s career than a constitutional one — because the two are indistinguishable."

She also notes that complaints by the police department about how much more difficult the reformed policy will make crime fighting are not good arguments, as "the burden on the plaintiff class of continued unconstitutional stops and frisks far outweighs the administrative hardships that the NYPD will face in correcting its unconstitutional practices."

A quote from the landmark 1968 case Terry Vs. Ohio which Scheindlin chooses to place before the introduction to her opinion sums the crux of this issue up best: "It is simply fantastic to urge that [a frisk] performed in public by a policeman while the citizen stands helpless, perhaps facing a wall with his hands raised, is a ‘petty indignity."


What the ruling will mean in practice is that, though the policy itself will not be scrubbed, it will be subject to oversight from outside legal expertise that will ensure that it is done in a way that demands a real "reasonable suspicion" before a citizen can be subjected to a stop and that the policy is applied in a racially neutral way.

The fact is, by taking the race and age and gender of subjects as evidence of suspicion, and by failing to justify the invasion of personal privacy and person by police, Bloomberg and Kelly's policy acts in direct opposition to both the progress of our culture and of the laws they have sworn to uphold. This ruling against Stop and Frisk is really a ruling for New Yorkers' liberty.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

26 ultra-rich people own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest

The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."

Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
  • In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
  • The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Keep reading Show less

People who constantly complain are harmful to your health

Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.

Photo credit: Getty Images / Stringer

Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.

Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.

Keep reading Show less
  • Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
  • Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
  • But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
Keep reading Show less