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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Federal Judge: NYC Stop And Frisk Violates The 4th Amendment

by Timothy Geigner

For anyone who might not know already, New York City's infamous stop and frisk program is the completely useless policy of the police department to go around randomly molesting anyone they deem to be suspicious, or more correctly described as brown-skinned. It appears that everyone who isn't a member of the NYPD or the current mayor of New York hates this program as much as I do, including AG Eric Holder and the NY City Council. Still, that didn't keep Chuck Schumer from trying to export this interracial softcore porn policy to the federal level by recommending Police Chief Ray Kelly as the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly's resume, however, may take a bit of a hit.

That's because a federal judge recently declared that the stop and frisk program violated tens of thousands of people's constitutional rights, which is the kind of thing that most folks frown on.

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.

Now, it's worth noting that Scheindlin didn't order that the program be stopped immediately or set a time and date for Mayor Bloomberg's lobotomy, which I found disappointing, but instead has appointed an outside legal counsel to oversee the police department and ensure that any random stopping and frisking of citizens is done constitutionally. That means no stops without reasonable suspicion. The problem, however, has been how police officers thus far have fudged their own reports on why they were stopping people.
While the Supreme Court has long recognized the right of police officers to briefly stop and investigate people who are behaving suspiciously, Judge Scheindlin found that the New York police had overstepped that authority. She found that officers were too quick to deem as suspicious behavior that was perfectly innocent, in effect watering down the legal standard required for a stop.
Obviously no outside legal overseer is going to be able to witness any sizable number of these stops, meaning there is a high likelihood that officers will continue to manufacture suspicion that is unfounded. In addition, it's well known that police officers consider themselves members of a fraternal organization, with all of the implications such a membership carries with it. How accurate a picture this outside counsel will get of these stops moving forward is an open question with a likely problematic answer.

That's why, while we should all be pleased that Judge Scheindlin ruled against stop and frisk, I think it would have been far better to scrap it entirely and make police play by the rules that are already prescribed by our constitution.

Floyd Liability Opinion 8 12 13 (PDF)

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