NYPD’s Infamous Stop-and-Frisk Policy Found Unconstitutional

By Taahira Thompson, a Summer 2013 Leadership Conference Intern

In a decision announced last week, a federal judge found the New York City Police Department’s “Stop-and-Frisk” policy unconstitutional.

The controversial policy allowed police officers to stop, interrogate and search New York City citizens on the sole basis of “reasonable suspicion.” Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics violate the U.S Constitution’s 4th Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.

Overwhelming evidence suggests that the policy is used as a method of racially profiling and harassing Black and Latino citizens. Minorities and many civil rights organizations such as the Center for Constitutional Rights and the NAACP, have voiced strong opposition to the policy.

In 1999, Blacks and Latinos made up 50 percent of New York’s population, but accounted for 84 percent of the city’s stops. Those statistics have changed little in more than a decade. According to the court’s opinion, between 2004 and 2012, the New York Police Department made 4.4 million stops under the citywide policy. More than 80 percent of those stopped were Black and Latino people. The likelihood a stop of an African-American New Yorker yielded a weapon was half that of White New Yorkers stopped, and the likelihood of finding contraband on an African American who was stopped was one-third that of White New Yorkers stopped.

The ruling was met with opposition from NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg. The city has announced it will appeal the decision and Mayor Bloomberg hopes to halt the court’s opinion at least until the end of his term, which ends this year.

At a federal level, several advocacy organizations, including The Leadership Conference, continue to advocate for the End Racial Profiling Act as one method to end the discriminatory racial profiling policies like stop and frisk.

Watch the video below and click here to check out Communities United for Police Reform’s “Where I am Going” campaign to find out more about the effects of stop and frisk in communities of color.