In a landmark decision this week, a federal court found the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) highly controversial stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional. In her thorough, 198-page ruling, Judge Shira Sheindlin found the NYPD’s practices to violate New Yorkers’ Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and also found that the practices were racially discriminatory in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Toremedy the widespread constitutional violations, the judge ordered a court-appointed monitor to oversee a series of reforms to NYPD policing practices and also ordered a Joint Remedial Process that will solicit input from a variety of stakeholders, including New York communities most directly affected by policing.
The court’s ruling follows a 10-week trial that concluded on May 20. The class action lawsuit, Floyd v. City of New York, was brought by the Center of Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the law firms of Beldock, Levine, and Hoffman and Covington & Burling. “This historic victory is the result not only of our 14 years of litigation, but of decades’ worth of efforts by activists, grassroots and legal organizations, and affected communities.
The NYPD is finally being held to account for its longstanding illegal and discriminatory policing practices. The City must now stop denying the problem and partner with the community to create a police department that protects the safety and respects the rights of all New Yorkers,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Darius Charney.
In 2011, the NYPD reported a record 685,724 stops — a 600 percent increase since Raymond Kelly took over as NYPD Commissioner in 2002. Eighty-four percent of those stopped were Black or Latino, and 88 percent of the people stopped were neither arrested nor received summonses. Despite the stated purpose of the policy, weapons and contraband were recovered less than 2 percent of the time.
In concluding that the city is liable for a widespread pattern and practice of stops and frisks in violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of all New Yorkers, the court said: “[The City has] received both actual and constructive notice since at least 1999 of widespread Fourth Amendment violations occurring as a result of the NYPD’s stop and frisk practices. Despite this notice, they deliberately maintained and even escalated policies and practices that predictably resulted in even more widespread Fourth Amendment violations. . . . The NYPD has repeatedly turned a blind eye to clear evidence of unconstitutional stops and frisks.”