Judge Sends NYPD Stop and Frisk Case to Trial

A jury will determine whether the police department’s stop-and-frisk policies are racially discriminatory.

Posted: 09/01/2011 02:39 PM EDT
Filed Under racism

The New York Police Department will now have to defend itself in court against claims that its stop-and-frisk policies unfairly target Blacks and Latinos.

Wednesday, a federal judge in New York ruled a class action suit against the NYPD based on claims of racial discrimination will go to trial, rejecting a defense motion to dismiss the case. The plaintiffs claim that in implementing the stop-and-frisk policy, the department purposefully engages in racially discriminatory practices such as targeting neighborhoods with high Black and Latino populations and enforcing arrest quotas on officers.

At trial, it will be decided whether the police department is "deliberately indifferent to the need to train, monitor, supervise, and discipline its officers adequately in order to prevent a widespread pattern of suspicion-less and race-based stops,” Judge Shira Scheindlin said, according to the Associated Press.

In making her decision not to dismiss the case before a trial can take place, Judge Scheindlin cited police officer testimony and audio recordings from police meetings that she said proves there are valid issues that should be aired out in front of a jury.

Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Darius Charney said in a statement that the decision “…confirms what the plaintiffs and thousands of New Yorkers have known for years, which is that there are serious questions about the legality and fairness of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program. Whether or not the city has violated the constitutional rights of law-abiding New Yorkers will now be for a jury to decide.”  

The practice, in which police officers are authorized to stop pedestrians and “frisk” them if there is “reasonable suspicion” of a crime has been a thorn in the side of poor communities in New York and civil rights advocates for years.

During the first half of 2011, police made more than 317,000 stops of completely innocent New Yorkers—with an overwhelming majority of people being Black and Latino. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union data, stop-and-frisk reports show that the NYPD stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 178,824 times between April 1 and June 30. Nearly nine out of 10 of these stops resulted in no charges or citations. Of those stopped, 91,493 were Black, 58,638 of those stopped were Latino, while only 16,893 were white.

"While the court has left it for the jury to determine whether the city has taken adequate action to ensure that stops of New Yorkers are handled appropriately, we are confident the jury will find in the city's favor," Heidi Grossman, an attorney for the city of New York, said in a press release.

According to statistics published by the American Civil Liberties Union, in 2010, out of nearly 600,000 New Yorkers that were stopped by police, 53 percent were Black, 32 percent were Latino and only 9 percent were white. Overall, 86 percent of people stopped of any race were completely innocent.

(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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