New York City has employed, under the Mayor Bloomberg Administration, a law and policy based on the two words of stop and frisk. These words are very important–the law gave New York City police officers the right to literally stop and frisk any pedestrian they so choose. Neither Probable Cause, Preponderance of Evidence, nor anything besides the police officers’ intuition is needed to warrant a legal frisk and pat down of any citizen at any time in New York City.
This law, recently struck down in a Federal District court, was disproportionately affecting minority populations, as well as violating many different Constitutional policies and Amendments. The Fourth Amendment specifically protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures–and in fact the Federal Judge struck down the law for rampant violations of this nature (Goldstein, 2013).
There is another much larger aspect to “Stop and Frisk” than is at the surface–the other reason it was struck down was due to the equal protections clause in the 14th Amendment. This was a very important part of the decision–the acknowledgement of a racial aspect to the law that was clouded the judgment of those enforcing it. This essentially issued a guilty verdict to the NYPD when it comes to racial profiling (Goldstein, 2013).
There are many that called this decision a complete travesty–citing many successful cases where the law was indeed enforced correctly. They have a point–arrests certainly went up, but not particularly the arrests the law was created to make. For example, this law was created as a part of Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to get more guns off the streets–a very tough endeavor. Instead of getting a large proportion of gun arrests, the arrests were generally for nonviolent drug possession offenses. This did little to decrease and deter actual violent crime, and instead crowded the prison system with petty nonviolent offenders–generally black and Hispanic men.
This is the major part of the argument that resonated with the everyday person–the statistics provided that implicitly showed–it did not have to be told–that the NYPD was targeting black and Hispanic men. This does not mean that law enforcement, the police commissioner, and the Mayor–as well as many others–still see this as a viable law enforcement tool to be used. In fact the Judge herself does as well, and thus the law has not gone completely away.
Judge Shira Scheindlin–although temporarily halting stop and frisk, also gave guidelines to allow lawmakers to make the law compliant. Because her decision was appealed, she essentially handed the State the tools they needed to fix the law before the appeal is even heard. In fact, it was Judge Scheindlin herself that appointed the two attorneys in charge of the committee to oversee and adjust the law to make it Constitutionally compliant.
This raises many issues in and of itself–just because an oversight committee is appointed does not make the 4th Amendment violations disappear. More importantly however, what is certainly does not do any of, is force ingrained prejudices to disappear. Because this in and of itself is impossible, the law should clearly remain unconstitutional–though by the appeal, the decision is sure to be reversed.
Goldstein, Joseph. “Judge Rejects New York’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy.” Nytimes.com. N.p., 12 Aug. 2013. Web.
“Judge Names Research Group Chief to Help Reform New York Police ‘Stop and Frisk’ Policy.” NYtimes.com. Reuters, 04 Sept. 2013. Web.