A federal judge said last Monday the New York Police Department deliberately violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers with its stop-and-frisk policy.
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin confirmed what should have been obvious—stop-and-frisk policy violates Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure of African-American and Hispanic men.
“The city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” Scheindlin wrote. “In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting ‘the right people’ is racially discriminatory.”
NYPD top officials received warnings since at least 1999 that officers were violating rights, she said.
“Despite this notice, they deliberately maintained and even escalated policies and practices that predictably resulted in even more widespread Fourth Amendment violations,” she wrote in a lengthy opinion.
The judged cited violations of Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
“Far too many people in New York City have been deprived of this basic freedom far too often,” she said. “The NYPD practice of making stops that individualized reason suspicion has been so pervasive and persistent as to become not only a part of the NYPD’s standard operating procedure, but a fact of daily life in some New York City neighborhoods.”
The judge determined through her paperwork alone at least 200,000 stops were made without reasonable suspicion, the necessary legal benchmark, lower than the standard of probable cause needed to justify an arrest.
Scheindlin said she was not putting an end to the policy, but rather was reforming it. She did not give specifics on how that would work, but instead named an independent monitor who would develop an initial set of reforms to the policies, training, supervision, monitoring and discipline.
The judge’s decision should prompt other Philadelphia police and other police departments (including Pittsburgh) to reevaluate their adopted stop-and-frisk policies.
The judge’s decision is also more evidence why President Obama should not consider New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as the next person to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The current head Janet Napolitano is resigning to take a job as president of the University of California system.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer and others have recommended Kelly to replace Napolitano. President Barack Obama said in a recent television interview that Kelly is well qualified for the job.
Obama would be making a serious mistake if he nominated Kelly to be Homeland Security secretary.
The president should not offer the cabinet position to Kelly, who has led a police department with a stop-and-frisk policing that, has now been found by a federal judge to be discriminatory to African-American and Hispanic men in New York City.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)
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