In ruling this morning, Judge Scheindlin ruled unconstitutional under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” policing method. As we have reported on in the past, Judge Scheindlin conducted a bench trial of claims brought by a class of plaintiffs who alleged to have been unlawfully detained under the policy. In the 198-page liability opinion, Judge Scheindlin found that the NYPD’s stops of 4.4 million people from 2004 to 2012 – 80% of which were of black or Hispanic individuals and more than half of which led to a frisk – were done without legal basis in violation of the Fourth Amendment and were targeted to particular races in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Judge Scheindlin explained that her decision was not based on the effectiveness of the stop-and-frisk method.
I emphasize at the outset, as I have throughout the litigation, that this case is not about the effectiveness of stop and frisk in deterring or combating crime. This Court’s mandate is solely to judge the constitutionality of police behavior, not its effectiveness as a law enforcement tool. Many police practices may be useful for fighting crime — preventive detention or coerced confessions, for example — but because they are unconstitutional they cannot be used, no matter how effective. “The enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.” *** The Supreme Court has recognized that “the degree of community resentment aroused by particular practices is clearly relevant to an assessment of the quality of the intrusion upon reasonable expectations of personal security.”6 In light of the very active and public debate on the issues addressed in this Opinion — and the passionate positions taken by both sides — it is important to recognize the human toll of unconstitutional stops. While it is true that any one stop is a limited intrusion in duration and deprivation of liberty, each stop is also a demeaning and humiliating experience. No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life. Those who are routinely subjected to stops are overwhelmingly people of color, and they are justifiably troubled to be singled out when many of them have done nothing to attract the unwanted attention. Some plaintiffs testified that stops make them feel unwelcome in some parts of the City, and distrustful of the police. This alienation cannot be good for the police, the community, or its leaders. Fostering trust and confidence between the police and the community would be an improvement for everyone.
The plaintiffs had requested injunctive, rather than monetary relief. As a result, in a separate opinion regarding remedy, Judge Scheindlin ordered that the NYPD reform its stop-and-frisk policies to adhere to the Constitution. Judge Scheindlin’s remedy
requires that the NYPD reform practices and policies related to stop and frisk to conform with the requirements of the United States Constitution. I stress, at the outset, that the remedies imposed in this Opinion are as narrow and targeted as possible. To be very clear: I am not ordering an end to the practice of stop and frisk. The purpose of the remedies addressed in this Opinion is to ensure that the practice is carried out in a manner that protects the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much needed police protection.
Judge Scheindlin appointed Peter L. Zimroth, a partner at Arnold & Porter and former Corporation Counsel for the City of New York and Chief Assistant District Attorney of New York, as a monitor to ensure that the reforms required in the opinion are implemented.