Part of NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Program Ruled Unconstitutional

Parts of the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk program were ruled unconstitutional on Tuesday.  The fourth amendment of the United States protects against unreasonable search and seizure – a provision many argued was violated by the stop-and-frisk program.

The ruling specifically addresses trespass stops outside of private apartment buildings in the Bronx.  Although the stops were done with the permission of the landlords, Judge Scheindlin called them unconstitutional.  The disproportionate targeting of minorities, paired with searches absent reasonable suspicion, qualify that aspect of the program as unreasonable by the standards of the fourth amendment.

The program’s detractors are celebrating, saying that the trespass stops were a wholesale infringement on civil liberties.  Individuals visiting friends and family in certain Bronx-area apartments could be stopped and frisked without more than a hunch on the part of the officer.  Judge Scheindlin held that attempts by the detained individual were met with hostility by officers, especially where the detainee was a young black man.  Detainees could be subject to searches of their pockets and held in a police van, based on little more than their presence near one of the apartment buildings in question.

Meanwhile, supporters of the program are criticizing the ruling.  New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said that the program provided “a modicum of safety for less prosperous tenants” and called Judge Scheindlin’s ruling an unnecessary interference with the department’s crime-fighting tools.  Meanwhile, the NYPD’s chief spokesperson, Paul J. Browne, pointed out that the program has led to several recent arrests for illegal guns.

Much of the criticism Judge Scheindlin directed at the program was leveled at the way the Police Department trains officers involved in the program.  She describes a training video, aimed at outlining what constitutes an actual stop, as misstating the law.

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