Tag Archives: stop and frisk

NYC Drops Stop and Frisk Appeal, Settles Case

I heard it first from my friend Jenn Rolnick, one of the plaintiff attorneys on the case, but the formal announcement has been released. Mayor De Blasio has reached an agreement with police reforms, such as amending the training materials used by officers. Police commissioner William Bratton stated, “We will not break the law to enforce the law,” signaling an intention by the police department to follow the restraints of our Constitutional protections. This is a victory for all citizens who oppose unlawful government intrusion, and especially for those minority citizens who have been unfairly targeted by unlawful police practices in NYC.

Manning’s Transgender Case : BU Law Represents

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, has announced that she is transgender, and intends to begin the sex reassignment process to become a woman. USA Today did a thorough and thoughtful article on the issue, and quoted Neal Minahan, my friend from Boston University School of Law.

I’m proud of my classmates, in addition to Mr. Minahan’s work on this important and delicate issue, Jenn Rolnick Borchetta worked on the NYPD Stop and Frisk case, helping prove that NYC police have been systematically violating people’s rights for years. It’s great to see my colleagues on the right side of good things happening in the law, and great for the profile of BU Law! BU Law, as you may know, prides itself on being on of the first law schools to admit students regardless of race or gender.

Federal Judge Rules Stop-and-Frisk Policy in NYC is Unconstitutional

  • NYPD has been systematically violating citizens’ rights for years

Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin has ruled that New York City police have been illegally detaining and searching people for several years running. Stop and frisk searches are permissible under certain circumstances, known as Terry stops, but the law requires that officers has a reasonable belief that a crime has been, or is about to be committed. The judge ruled that officers have been stopping people with no lawful reason, violating their constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. What makes the policy more appalling is that the City’s policy frequently targeted minorities, making the unlawful stops based on racial discrimination.

Judge Scheindlin noted that in 88 percent of the stops, the individuals were released without so much as a ticket. According to her, such a high percentage suggests that there was not a credible suspicion in the first place. If a baseball player only has a .12o batting average, he wouldn’t be playing baseball very long. Since these stops are supposed to be predicated by a founded suspicion, you would expect the percentage of discovered infractions to be very high. The double concern is not only that thousands of innocent people’s rights are being violated by the officers who are supposed to protect and serve them, but that by targeting minorities, and young men in particular, they further alienate these demographics from trusting the police. The NYPD policy has been proven to be practicing unlawful policies in court, and it is a shame.

The mayor has argued that the policy has led to a reduction of the crime rate. First, the causation has not been proven. Second, the results are legally irrelevant. Finally, is it worth catching a few more kids with weed to violate our citizens’ rights on a regular basis? Is it worth alienating a generation against the NYPD? Aren’t the underlying Constitutional Rights worth protecting? Yes they are, and this was a brave, correct decision by the court. Congrats to the attorneys who fought so hard to prove this case.

NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Practice Challenged in Class-Action Suit

Right now the NYPD is on trial for civil rights violations for their stop and frisk policies. The question at trial is whether the police department unfairly targeted minorities for unlawful detentions and searches. Under the Constitution, we are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures from the government. Police are allowed to stop and pat people down (known as Terry stops) if they have probable cause to believe they are committing, are about to commit, or just committed a crime. Just because someone is a young man who happens to be a minority is not legal justification to detain otherwise innocent citizens.

nypdThe plaintiffs are claiming not only did the City frequently stop people without justification, but that they specifically targeted young, male minorities to stop and frisk without justification, strictly due to their age and race. The evidence is not merely anecdotal; among the witnesses that have testified include police officers who have indicated that there were quotas placed on them to issue citaions. The officers have brought in recordings from meetings with superior officers that appear to include specific directives to  target young male minorities. Officers have testified under oath that kids were being stopped for no reason. Plaintiffs have testified to being targeted multiple times without justification.

It is an affront to our Constitution that police officers would be so caught up in making arrests that they would step on the rights they are sworn to protect. The mindset in some law enforcement officers is that there are bad guys out there, and they are justified in what they do if they are pursuing those bad guys. However, except in circumstances outlined under law, it is inappropriate to infringe on the rights of many (perhaps a high percentage of the 5 million that have been stopped in the last decade) . Any stop that is not based on reasonable suspicion of actual criminal activity is a violation of someone’s constitutional rights. If it is proved that the NYPD deliberately ignored people’s rights through their policy, they are wrong, and should have to pay. That is the only remedy to prevent such illegal practices in the future.

The irony is that such policies may create greater challenges for law enforcement officers. The more innocent people who get harassed, the greater the distrust and resentment of law enforcement grows among citizens. That leads to greater difficulty in future enforcement efforts. The NYPD is vigorously fighting the allegations, saying their actions are lawful, and the city is safer than it has been in decades.

Perhaps, in light of the evidence, they should be scrutinizng their own policies. The money spent fighting the lawsuit bight be better spent hiring a PR firm to advertise a new NYPD that fights to protect the Constitution, and uses that as a springboard to rebuilding their relationship with the people they are sworn to protect. Admittedly, that would require admitting they did something wrong, which is harder for politicians than spending public money to defend themselves in court. It is much easier for politicians to claim to be tough on crime than to be perceived as not backing their police department, and bad cops go on hurting the reputation of the whole department, and cops everywhere.

Thanks to Aaron for alerting me to this story.