A federal judge today ruled that the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy is unconstitutional in some circumstances. Under the policy, cops target “suspicious” citizens on the street and search them for weapons and drugs. Unshockingly, white New Yorkers are rarely considered “suspicious.”
The lawsuit, Ligon v. the City of New York, is one of three related cases involving stop-and-frisk practices before Judge Scheindlin. The broadest reaching case accuses the police of stopping and frisking hundreds of thousands of people a year solely on the basis of race; Judge Scheindlin granted that lawsuit class-action status in May. The third case challenges police stops at public housing projects.
In the decision released on Tuesday, the judge ordered the police “to cease performing trespass stops” outside the private buildings in the program unless officers have reasonable suspicion, a legal standard that requires police officers to be acting on more than just a hunch.
The fact that a person was merely seen entering or leaving a building was not enough to permit the police to stop someone, “even if the building is located in a high-crime area, and regardless of the time of day,” the judge ruled. Nor was it enough for an officer to conduct a stop simply because the officer had observed the person move furtively, Judge Scheindlin said. (The forms that the police fill out after each street stop offer “furtive” movements as a basis for the stop).