The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized
Before you ask, we don’t have something like that here.
A US federal judge has upended a cornerstone of New York policing, declaring the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy a violation of the US constitution that unfairly targeted blacks and Hispanics.
In a 198-page ruling, Judge Shira Scheindlin said on Monday police randomly stopping individuals on the street and subjecting them to searches violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
It also runs afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, said Scheindlin, who stressed how young black and Hispanic males were most likely to be targeted.
“The evidence at trial revealed that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has an unwritten policy of targeting ‘the right people’ for stops,” the judge said.
“In practice, the policy encourages the targeting of young black and Hispanic men based on their prevalence in local crime complaints. This is a form of racial profiling.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg says his administration will appeal the ruling, telling reporters that stop-and-search was a “vital deterrent” that had taken 8,000 guns off the street over a decade.
“There is no question that stop, question and frisk has saved countless lives,” he said.
Scheindlin, a US District Court judge, refrained from ordering a total halt to stop-and-frisk.
But in a move unprecedented in New York police history, she ordered the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure that such searches are carried out “in accordance with the Constitution”.
Bloomberg bristled at that idea, saying it was tantamount to putting the NYPD and its nearly 35,000 uniformed personnel “into receivership”.
Stop-and-frisk has been a centrepiece of New York’s efforts to bring criminality to heel after the drug-fuelled violence of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Of the 4.4 million cases between January 2004 and January 2012 in which New York police briefly detained individuals on suspicion of criminal involvement, 52 per cent involved blacks and 31 per cent Hispanics. Only 10 per cent involved whites.
“The city and its highest officials believe that blacks and Hispanics should be stopped at the same rate as their proportion of the local criminal suspect population,” Scheindlin said.
“But this reasoning is flawed because the stopped population is overwhelmingly innocent – not criminal.”