Commend Decision to Deem Controversial Stop-and-Frisk Policy Unconstitutional


Target: New York state lawyers

Goal: Applaud New York state attorneys for convincing judge to render the controversial use of the stop-and-frisk tactic unconstitutional

Recently, U.S. district Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the New York Police Department’s use of a police tactic known as the stop-and-frisk tactic—a tactic used when a police officer who has suspicions about an individual detains him or her and feels the body of that individual for a concealed weapon—was unconstitutional. She called for federal oversight over the NYPD using body cameras on officers to make sure that the cops comply with the Constitution. Her decision comes on the heels of two class-action lawsuits waged by victims of unwarranted police stops and searches. This ruling is commendable because it aims to halt racial profiling in New York, where the nation’s largest police department has systematically and illegally singled out blacks and Hispanics invoking the stop-and-frisk law as criminals.

Scheindlin rightfully believes that New York’s highest officials have ignored the overwhelming evidence that officers racially profile certain individuals when conducting stops and searches. Officers and officials have staunchly defended a tool they believed to be effective but in the process have turned a blind eye to proof of racial discrimination. Stop-and-frisk has been used for decades in various forms, but the Bloomberg administration greatly accelerated the number of recorded stops, the majority of which involved black and Hispanic men. Usually, those who are stopped are just questioned, but others have had their belongings searched as well as full body pat-downs. Only a small amount of the individuals are arrested, and a weapon is rarely found on the “suspicious” individuals. Scheindlin emphasized that she is not repealing the law but rather is changing how reforming how the NYPD went about stopping certain individuals.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed to appeal the ruling because it infringes on a policy that both he and the New York Police Department have vehemently defended as a life-saving police tactic that has combated and prevented serious crime. The outcome of the ruling and its appeal in the courts will dictate how and whether other cities use or abandon the tactic. Over 200,000 stops were made without reasonable suspicion according to Judge Scheindlin. Many of these stops were the outcome of superior officials pressuring officers to make bad stops.

The stop-and-frisk tactic directly violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. Many New Yorkers have been deprived of their basic freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Although change will be slow to come, Judge Scheindlin’s decision should be applauded for aiming to preserve the basic rights codified in the U.S. Constitution and to rectify the racial profiling conducted by New York officials, which has resulted in the criminalization of minority groups. The lawyers who convinced Scheindlin that stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional must be recognized and applauded.


Dear New York state attorneys,

We applaud your bold step towards preserving justice by rendering the controversial stop-and-frisk tactic unconstitutional because of the overt racial profiling it has fostered. Your actions paved the way for an historic decision that will address the prevalence of racial profiling and discrimination by the New York Police Department and will serve as a necessary step forward for both the black and Hispanic communities. The advocates of this controversial policy continue to show an absence of sympathy towards those who have wrongfully been targeted. Your decision has limned you as an advocate for the vulnerable and oppressed.

Although Judge Scheindlin did not immediately end the policy, her decision to appoint a monitor to oversee New York Police Department stops will contribute to an overwhelming change in how the NYPD conducts itself. Furthermore, officers will be more vigilant in how they treat purported suspects. The decision is historic and should be applauded for combating the simmering racism that still plagues both New York City as well as cities across the United States.


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Photo credit: Kat Gawin via Flickr

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