A Federal judge ruled the New York Police Department’s discriminatory implementation of its reviled “Stop and Frisk” policy unConstitutional Monday, rebuking mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly – both of whom had exponentially expanded upon the decades-old protocol that authorized police to stop and search people on the street without probable cause.
In a landmark ruling, Federal judge Shira Scheindlin said the policy violates the 4th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, and appointed attorney Peter Zimroth to serve as an independent monitor to review departmental practices and ensure the city would henceforth conduct stops and searches that don’t violate the law.
Zimroth will enact training and policy reforms and conduct periodic compliance reviews, issuing public reports every six months. Scheindlin set no end date for his indefinite appointment.
The ruling does not completely overturn Stop and Frisk; instead, it focuses on ensuring that police do not continue the practice based on racial profiling of minorities. That angered plenty of Constitutional conservatives, but was still harsh enough a ruling to elicit a pledge from the Bloomberg administration that the city would appeal Scheindlin’s ruling.
In the lengthy ruling, Scheindlin scorched Bloomberg, Kelly and the police department’s administration as a whole, saying they had all “turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.”
In touting the drop in New York’s crime rate under the expansion of Stop and Frisk, Bloomberg had openly acknowledged that police were authorized to racially profile young men on the street – particularly blacks and Hispanics – and said he would be pleased if the department, in fact, began targeting fewer white people.
“No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life,” retorted Scheindlin in her ruling.
The order came as a result of two separate class action lawsuits brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Scheindlin noted that Bloomberg’s boast of the fallen crime rate was irrelevant in considering whether the policy is Constitutional.
“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,” she wrote.