Stop and Frisk Ruling

Today Federal District Judge Shira Scheindlin made her ruling in a much anticipated case against the New York City Police Department regarding its controversial “Stop and Frisk” tactics. The ruling itself is some 195 pages long which will take me a few days to study, but Judge Scheindlin did prepare a very helpful “Executive Summary” so we know the bottom line. Here’s a snippet:

“I find that [New York] City is liable for violating plaintiff’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The City acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and unconstitutional frisks….I also conclude that the City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. 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 and therefore violates the United States Constitution.”

An important ruling. Airline passengers have many legitimate grievances against TSA searches, but now imagine getting frisked when you leave your home for work, or to meet friends. That’s the experience of many minority males. Judge Scheindlin reminds everyone that the Fourth Amendment applies to everyone—even those who live in neighborhoods where the crime rate is higher.

For related Cato work, go here and here.