New York City’s ‘Stop and Frisk’ Unconstitutional, Says Federal Judge

U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled Monday that New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” policy violates the Constitution and must be reformed. The federal judge found that the New York Police Department had adopted a policy of “indirect racial profiling,” which violated protections afforded by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

“The City [of New York] acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks,” Scheindlin wrote in her decision. She added that the policy had resulted in “the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.”

“The city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” Scheindlin wrote. “In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting ‘the right people’ is racially discriminatory.”

Though Scheindlin stopped short of banning Stop and Frisk, she ordered an independent monitor to oversee the practice and a process to consider additional reforms.

Members of minority groups have been arguing for reform or elimination of Stop and Frisk for years, citing the overwhelming racial disparity in police stops. Those claims were pooh-poohed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said in June that he thought Stop and Frisk didn’t target enough minorities. Predictably, Bloomberg blasted Monday’s decision, saying that the ruling would make the city and country more dangerous.

Civil rights activists, on the other hand, cheered the ruling. Benjamin Jealous, the head of the NAACP, said in a statement that the ruling was a “groundbreaking victory.” The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, said the ruling was “a victory for all New Yorkers.”

About 5 million people have been stopped under Stop and Frisk over the last decade. The stops have been so heavily weighted toward nonwhites that more African Americans have been stopped than actually live in New York City. Scheindlin noted in her ruling that African Americans were more likely to be stopped for reasons such as “furtive movements” than white people, and that in the vast majority of cases where police cited a “suspicious bulge” as a reason to search, no weapon was found.

Overall, 80 percent of people stopped under Stop and Frisk have been African American or Hispanic, and 90 percent of those stopped weren’t convicted of any crime. The stops appear to have been designed to harass and frighten non-white New Yorkers, rather than to reduce crime rates.

The ruling could complicate the potential candidacy of New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who has been touted as a possible replacement for Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security. The ruling will also impact the ongoing race to succeed Bloomberg as New York City mayor. Most mayoral candidates indicated a tentative acceptance of the ruling, with all Democratic candidates issuing statements ranging from calls for improvement to outright elimination of the program.

The current mayor, however, shows no sign of giving up. Bloomberg vowed to appeal the ruling, stating that New York City did not receive a fair trial. That reasoning must ring hollow to the millions of average African American or Hispanic citizens of New York City who have been stopped under the Stop and Frisk policy for no good reason.


Jim Ven
Jim V3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago


lee e.
lee e5 years ago

this is racial profiling conducted by our "mayor" and his little pal "Kelly" who stands to be head of homeland security - that's all we need -- a professed anti-constitution dictator - to stop and frisk every American - this guy's a control freak - who deserves to be out of a job - and out of our city. Those of you who for a moment think that this has stopped crime, seized illegal guns - controlled drugs - you are seriously deluded! There have been several lives ruined for a "clip" here and there - there have been relatively rare confiscations of weapons - and aside from embarrassing some of my friends multiple times - very few legitimate arrests except an occasional bit of weed - to destroy the records of school youths - if they stopped thee Wall Street crowd - they'd find a lot more cocaine! This has done nothing to lessen crime in the city, and more to bring about a deep hatred and disgust for the men of blue!

Robby K.
Past Member 5 years ago

I'm a white man & I don't think it's right for me to be "stopped & frisked" w/out serious reasonable suspicion. Therefore, I don't see how it's right to stop & frisk ANYONE of ANY color w/out same suspicion either. I usually see the race card played as a last defense when nothing else works, but this is one of the many cases where it's true- this is a racist law. We need to stop it now, for everyone!

Mike Wilkinson
Mike Wilkinson5 years ago

bust their a$$, steal their weed, make them cry, make them bleed....''Officer Stadanko.....Nice Dreams'' bust a stoner you yourself must become a stoner!....if I were a cop I could have access to the best, top shelf drugs.....just an observation.......and don't forget about the cash.....just as long as they treat the CEOs the same as they do the alley expedition....won't be going to NYC anytime soon....

Lin M
Lin M5 years ago

I really think police do go to far in doing their job. It's time for a change. It is just not right to pick some one out of a crowd to frisk them in public. If mostly they find nothing, why keep on doing it? It really couldn't be that much fun.

John S.
Past Member 5 years ago

I just read a Washington Post article that said "A white person is five times as likely to commit suicide with a gun as to be shot with a gun; for each African American who uses a gun to commit suicide, five are killed by other people with guns." It also pointed out that whites mostly kill themselves in rural areas and blcks in urban areas. Banning the stop and frisk will just increase the numbers that die.

Kate C.
Kate Collier5 years ago

Thank you

Don Swanz
Don Swanz5 years ago

Just "scattering shooting" here. Bloomberg said that NYC "did not receive a fair trail". It was probably much fairer; justice wise, than those who were stopped and frisked received. Beware NYC & NYS, for a wise man said that those who would give up freedom for security, deserve neither. Don and I CAN! :-))

Paul M.
Paul M5 years ago

"Steven Levitt: The freakonomics of crack dealing" link should have been ...

Sorry about that.