Stop-and-Frisk Practice Violated Rights, Judge Rules

Joseph Goldstein, New York Times, August 13, 2013

In a repudiation of a major element in the Bloomberg administration’s crime-fighting legacy, a federal judge has found that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York, and called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms.

In a blistering decision issued on Monday, the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, found that the Police Department had “adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling” that targeted young minority men for stops. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the city would appeal the ruling, angrily accusing the judge of deliberately not giving the city “a fair trial.”

The mayor cited the benefits of stop-and-frisk, crediting the tactic for making the city safer and for ridding the streets of thousands of illegal guns.

But in her ruling, Judge Scheindlin found that in doing so, the police systematically stopped innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing.

The stops, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, as well as the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, according to the 195-page decision.

Judge Scheindlin’s criticism extended beyond the conduct of police officers; in holding the city liable for a battery of constitutional violations, the judge found that top police officials acted with deliberate indifference. She said that police commanders were content to dismiss allegations of racial profiling as “a myth created by the media.”

Citing statements by the mayor and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Judge Scheindlin accused the city of using stop-and-frisk as a checkpoint-style policing tactic, with the intent of deterring minorities from carrying guns on the street.

“I also conclude that the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” she wrote.

The judge designated an outside lawyer, Peter L. Zimroth, to monitor the Police Department’s compliance with the Constitution.

Judge Scheindlin also ordered a number of other remedies, including a pilot program in which officers in at least five precincts across the city will wear body-worn cameras in an effort to record street encounters. She also ordered a “joint remedial process”—in essence, a series of community meetings—to solicit public input on how to reform stop-and-frisk.

The decision to install Mr. Zimroth, a partner in the New York office of Arnold & Porter LLP, and a former corporation counsel and prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, will leave the department under a degree of judicial control that is certain to shape the policing strategies under the next mayor.

The Supreme Court had long ago ruled that stop-and-frisks were constitutionally permissible under certain conditions, and Judge Scheindlin stressed that she was “not ordering an end to the practice.” But she said that changes were needed to ensure that the street stops were carried out in a manner that “protects the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much needed police protection.”


Judge Scheindlin heard testimony from about a dozen black or biracial men and a woman who described being stopped, and she heard from statistical experts who offered their conclusions based on police paperwork describing some 4.43 million stops between 2004 and mid-2012.

But the stops were not the end of the problem, Judge Scheindlin found. Officers often frisked these people, overwhelmingly young black and Hispanic men, for weapons or searched their pockets for contraband, like drugs, according to the decision. Those encounters typically ended with the police letting the person go for lack of evidence of criminality.

Blacks and Hispanics were stopped about 88 percent of the time, a disparity that the Police Department has sought to explain by saying that it mirrored the disproportionate percentage of crimes committed by young minority men. In severe language, Judge Scheindlin dismissed the Police Department’s rationale.

“This might be a valid comparison if the people stopped were criminals,” Judge Scheindlin wrote, explaining that there was significant evidence that the people being stopped were not criminals. “To the contrary, nearly 90 percent of the people stopped are released without the officer finding any basis for a summons or arrest.”

Rather, Judge Scheindlin found, the city had a “policy of targeting expressly identified racial groups for stops in general.”

“Targeting young black and Hispanic men for stops based on the alleged criminal conduct of other young black or Hispanic men violates bedrock principles of equality,” Judge Scheindlin ruled, finding that the Police Department’s practices violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

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  • bigone4u

    The judge has taken the handcuffs off the criminals and put them on the police with this ruling. If you want a good laugh look at the libtard comments on the NY Times, some predicting that the ruling will LOWER the crime rate since the police won’t be wasting time stopping innocent black persons. The good news is that Bloomberg plans to appeal.

    • me

      What’s ‘unconstitutional’ is the plague of Bantu crime that infringes on our Bill of Rights. What’s ‘unconstitutional’ is the constant and illegal seizure of European American wealth to support the racist, feral, and violent Bantu. These people are a friggin joke.

    • Lagerstrom

      They’ll be wasting a whole lot of time stopping men that look like me and you.

    • Just wait; in a year or so, blacks and browns themselves will be complaining that criminals are running wild, and will be whining and crying that the “racist” police aren’t doing anything about it. “If this was happening in white neighborhoods, you wouldn’t be ignoring it!” we will hear. The’d like the city of New York – and by extension the rest of the United States – to pretend that by arresting more whites, we can reduce predominantly black crime.

      I don’t get stopped and frisked, but the reason isn’t that I look white. The reason is that I’m 47 years old and am home with my family at night and not outside breaking into parked cars, mugging people or selling drugs. On rare occasions when I am out after dark, my movements are more clearly focused, getting from point A to point B, rather than aimless wandering, and I don’t appear to be messed up on any streetcorner pharmaceuticals. There’s also clothes. It’s said “clothes make the man”, and while that isn’t quite true, clothes do make the first impression. If one is wearing a polo shirt and jeans that actually fit properly the first impression you make with a policeman will be much more favorable than if you are dressed like some goofball “gangsta”. My way, the cop will keep driving and ignore me.

      • bigone4u

        You have written an encyclopedia’s worth of wisdom in your second paragraph. I see blacks and here in Texas Mexicans wandering around all the time. Just wandering aimlessly or as you say, peering into parked cars, acting like they’re goofed up, etc. It’s good you stay home with your family most of the time.

  • TheCogitator

    I don’t like the policy, and the judge is probably right. But you can’t argue with its success. Blacks are so often committing a crime or about to, that any cop with a brain in his head knows that if you want to stop crime, you need to stop blacks.

    • John R

      You don’t like the policy? Why not? Because the poor darkies are getting inconvenienced? You saw my sarcastic post here. I don’t give a RAT’S BEHIND about people that are better off in this fricken country than anywhere else on earth! What did they contribute to our society that is positive? Unless you are black or brown yourself, in that case you are a race enemy and I won’t bother talking to you, but if you are White, then, kindly rethink your comment, please, and remember if our people don’t stand up for ourselves, no one else will. Peace.

      • TheCogitator

        I believe the government has taken too much power — powers not granted by the Constitution. If the government usurps your rights, I lose too because it can set a precedent where they will take my rights next.

        Never let the government take our rights, even if they are taking your enemy’s right, we have to stop them. When anyone’s rights are diminished or taken, we all lose.

    • NeanderthalDNA

      What about the policy do you not like and how is the judge right?

      • TheCogitator

        As I understand it, they are stopping a frisking without probable cause. I could cheer them stopping blacks, but what happens when our out of control police turn on you and me?

        As dangerous as blacks are, I see the police as an even greater threat. I can avoid blacks, but the police can force themselves into my life, and I am not free to leave like I am when I see a crowd of blacks.

        I’ll be blunt, I don’t really like blacks or the police. I avoid both whenever it is possible.

        • NeanderthalDNA

          I don’t agree but that was still a good answer.
          Well, in that increasing numbers of coppers are upjumped zip-coons, perhaps you do have a point.

  • Puggg

    Bloomberg said that they actually stop a few more whites and Asians than they need to precisely to ally this kind of criticism.

    However, this is also an opportunity for an enterprising political candidate that wants to win New York City and therefore also New York State.

    • willbest

      I read somewhere that blacks commit something like 85% of the crimes but are only subjected to around 77% of the SnF. Seems to me like they need to increase the number of SnF on blacks.

      • JohnEngelman

        And they need to put more blacks in prison.

  • dd121

    Somehow I don’t think Jefferson and the boys were too worried about negro sensibilities when they wrote the Constitution.

    • me

      Jefferson should have unequivocally stated that the country, and the Constitution, were created for European Americans–not for some wild Bantu, squat monkey, or non-goy Marxist.

      • Spartacus

        That was supposed to go without saying…

    • JohnEngelman

      Those who worry excessively about the rights of the accused are likely to be people who have never been victims of serious crimes.

  • Where Judge Judy here gets it wrong (same surname, incidentally) is that not all stops which result in questions will automatically result in frisks. It’s how the accostee responds to the “Q” after being “S”ed that will determine whether he is “F”ed. SQF, because of the Q, is a perfectly constitutional Terry v Ohio stop.

  • David Ashton

    Equality of search: elderly cripples as much as athletic youth, females as much as males, Quakers as much as Muslims, gays as much as straights (oh, perhaps not that bit).

    • me

      Yeah, the same insanity that drives the TSA and other non-goy genius. Wait until it bites them in their kosher ass…

  • John R

    Yep. Those White cops are just targeting blacks and Hispanics out of their own prejudice. They are just doing it because of a philosophy of White supremacy, and are only trying to put down people of color. This has nothing to do with preventing crime; they only do that because these people getting stopped are not White. How do I know? Because look at all the Chinese, Indians, and Koreans that get frisked by the police…..uhhhh, never mind.

  • negrolocaust

    female judge… says it all to me

    • IstvanIN


    • NeanderthalDNA

      Shira Scheindlin? Bet Judy Scheindlin would have ruled differently. Wonder if there’s a relation.

  • I got flagged?

    • me

      Uh oh….must have offended a certain non-goy….

      • Said nothing offensive. Said the numbers could be eualed up by frisking men entering Manhattan office buildings, that they would likely submit out of concern for their own welfare. Also said at certain buildings people must go through metal detectors and have their belongings scanned, and that since this is often overseen by off-duty PD that these could be considered SQF. I named a couple of specific building examples, but that is because I have knowledge as I am in that industry.

  • IstvanIN

    If it weren’t for the blacks, and assorted other third world types, we wouldn’t need what is probably an unconstitutional policy.

    • Nick Gherz

      The Founding Fathers had no way of knowing the consequences of not picking their own cotton . . .

      • IstvanIN

        They never thought we would be dumb enough to declare them our “peers” and “equals”.

        • Nick A Siggers

          This comment should have 10,000 up votes.

        • Yale2001

          Very true. Lincoln himself stated this many times.

        • Spartacus

          “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing
          about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black
          races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or
          jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to
          intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that
          there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I
          believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of
          social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live,
          while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and
          inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the
          superior position assigned to the white race.”

          -Abraham Lincoln

  • serious123

    Too funny. The Mayor is actually doing more to protect blacks and hispanics from each other than anybody else. Not even the liberals can help blacks.

  • Didn’t the Supreme Court already rule that “Terry Stops” are OK?

    • me

      You’re trying to use logic to make sense of the insane ‘genius’ of our ‘elite’. You’re gonna get a headache if you keep that up!

      • Certainly, but it seems quite peculiar that a federal district court judge would think she has the legal authority to vacate a pre-existing US Supreme Court ruling.

  • Nick Gherz

    The judge, because of her protected/safe station, does not have to live with the consequences of her ruling.

  • APaige

    ‘indirect racial profiling’? Do not understand that term. Well I still believe that without probable cause-or any of the exclusions needed for a warrant-‘plain sight’, etc. is very questionable. The fact that the policy has saved black and brown lives really makes it dubious.

    • me

      Stopping the Bantu’s hurt ‘feelings’ by “indirect racial profiling”=European American harassment for the sake of ‘equality’. I am of the opinion that we should have direct, blatant, and violent ‘racial profiling’ for gang-banging Bantus.

      • John R

        Oh, for the good ‘ol days, when a cop could just pull up, and say to a young black, “Trayvon” typre: “Hey, boy! What are you doin ’round here in this neighborhood?”

  • JohnEngelman

    I have been stopped and frisked three times by police officers. i appreciate their vigilance and wished that they had stopped and frisked the young black men who had mugged me on other occasions.

    • disqus_Xz3UA6obwj

      You have become a prisoner advocating the virtues of your own imprisonment.

  • Enar_Larsson

    The policy demonstrates a widespread disregard for the fourth amendment yet can be deemed constitutional as long as proportionate percentages of races have their rights violated? I would have been happy if this policy had been struck down simply on the fourth amendment grounds but all this federal oversight to ensure the constitution is ignored fairly makes me sick,

    • John R

      Good point. The objections are more about the EQUALITY of minorities, rather than about the FREEDOM of everybody.

    • I’m as big a fan of the Fourth Amendment as the next fellow, but a ruling that would prohibit police from stopping and frisking suspicious persons – out in public where they have no reasonable expectation of privacy – would effectively mean that police are not allowed to do any thinking on their own. This would instantly make training them rather pointless, wouldn’t it?

  • RHG

    Good, now all they have to do is get Wiener elected mayor and Spitzer back in office and the transformation of NYC back into a violent sewer will be complete.

    • Or, NYC could take the other direction, elect Joe Lhota, the only sane man in the race, and keep on SQFing.

      As far as the politics of it, you have to remember that Manhattan is a big source of contributions for national Democrats, and SQF keeps them safe from the NAM undertow which they want to foist on everyone else. They’re going to exert pressure through not very visible channels to make sure the courts don’t bork SQF. Notice neither Obama nor Holder have really said much about SQF?

  • Romulus

    Zimroth and scheindlin. Need I say more.Blacks and hispanics commit a disproportionate amount of crime. That was why the law was implemented in the first place.

  • OhWow

    Welcome to life in 2013 where it’s more important to avoid hurting people’s feelings rather than preventing crime. In other words, this country is overdosing on PC.

  • Spartacus

    “…the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin…”


    Seems only fitting that the measure that stopped Jew York from turning into Detroit is being overturned by an jewess .

  • Anan7

    I am a bit torn on this. On the one hand, stop and frisk is a clear
    violation of 4th amendment rights. But on the other hand, it keeps many
    Blacks/Hispanics off the streets. Like many things in life, it is a

  • disqus_Xz3UA6obwj

    So when did probable cause get tossed? Searching people without probable cause should be illegal no matter who the police target. Letting the end justify the means as an excuse for taking away our civil rights is very foolish.

    • The Ohio vs. Terry decision didn’t eliminate the probable cause requirement; it made it less strict, requiring only “reasonable suspicion”, which results from the “totality of the circumstances”. This can result from a combination elements, each of which by itself would be innocuous.

      The patdown must be limited to what is necessary to discover weapons. Police may seize other contraband, but only if the contraband’s identity is immediately apparent. A traffic stop is a classic example of a Terry stop, because it requires a warrant, driver’s consent or probable cause (and NOT reasonable suspicion) before police may search a stopped vehicle.

  • MekongDelta69

    They get stopped more because they commit most of the crime – or, as the kids would say – Duhhhhhhhhhh

    For those interested in reading about radical Shira A. Scheindlin:

  • Reverend Bacon

    This case is more evidence in support of a central hypothesis of mine: if liberals would
    only understand math, they’d be less liberal.

    First, there is an error on page 8 of the pdf (the 11th page of 198) which is egregious: they claim that only 0.1% of the total stops yielded weapons, yet on the previous page, both sides stipulated that “Weapons were seized in 1.0% of the stops of blacks, 1.1% of the stops of Hispanics, and 1.4% of the stops of whites.” On page 6, they admit that In 52% of the 4.4 million stops, the person stopped was black, in 31% the person was Hispanic, and in 10% the person was white. Assuming that the missing 7% they stopped were Asians carrying no weapons at all, they still yielded a >1% hit rate for weapons.

    Second, the idea that the police are lying when they claim “reasonable suspicion” is
    central to this case. They only found that 1% of those they stopped had an
    illegal weapon on them; this is cited as evidence that they were just guessing
    wildly, and there was no “reasonable suspicion.”

    OK, so what does “reasonable suspicion” mean? It should mean that there is some greater probability among those people that they are criminals. It’s defined loosely as less than “probable cause” which is less than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    So it really comes down to numbers. Does it mean that there’s a 50% greater chance
    that the person stopped is a criminal, vs. an individual picked at random? How
    about 75%? If their stop-and-frisk targets had a 100% greater probability of
    being criminals, wouldn’t that simply prove that the stops weren’t random, and
    involved some very good police work? What if the number were dramatically
    greater, like 500%?

    So, let’s look at NYC’s violent crime rate. It’s about 500 per 100,000 every year,
    or 0.5%. Let’s assume that those 500 violent crimes-per-100,000 people are
    committed by repeat offenders, and they mug, rob, rape, or murder someone every
    two months, which is probably conservative. That’s 6 times a year. So for each
    100,000 of population, you have only about 500/6=83 violent criminals
    committing those 500 violent crimes.

    This 83 per 100,000 is .083% of the population; a random guess would, then, yield
    an illegal weapon only 0.083% of the time. These cops achieved an illegal
    weapon 1% of the time; 1/.083 is about 12, which means that these cops, using
    whatever methods they use to choose a stop-and-frisk target, are over 12 times
    more effective than pure random guesses would be. That’s 1,200% better than chance.
    Not 50%. Not 75%. Not even the dramatic 500% I spoke of before. 1,200%.

    If that’s not proof that the cops are being accurate when they claim to have
    “reasonable suspicion” I don’t know what is. And I don’t know how the
    statisticians missed it; or was it all due to someone propagating the error on
    page 8?

  • newscomments70

    real estate in NYC, in all boroughs, had skyrocketed after stop and frisk was instituted. High paid yuppies, gays, as well as famous liberals were renovating brownstowns in Harlem, Brooklyn, Bronx. Chelsea Clinton and her husband just moved into a $20+ apartment in Manhattan…what will happen to these property values when New York turns back into Detroit?

  • Randall Ward

    Only 10% were found with illegal stuff!! Well, they knew they might be searched- dummy judge. What do you think the % will be now? It might go up.

  • Since we saw the media and the bleeding hearts work themselves into hysterics over the Trayvon Martin shooting, what you have written here must be described as a “self-answering question”.