In District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling in Floyd v. The City of New York on Monday, there was both good news and bad news. The good news is that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s "stop and frisk" policy, which has the enthusiastic cooperation of his police commissioner Ray Kelly and violates both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, was ruled unconstitutional. The bad news is that, with a little adjusting and tweaking, the policy will be allowed to continue.
According to the New York Times, the judge tried to build an invincible case against an appeal in her 198-page ruling, which analyzed in detail 19 individual cases where city residents were subjected to a “stop and frisk” out of more than four million conducted between 2004 and 2012. She cited and affirmed the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling by the Warren Court in 1968 — Terry v. Ohio — when that court greatly softened the language of the Fourth Amendment from “probable cause” to just “reasonable suspicion” but chastised the city for extending and expanding even that broadened language to unconscionable lengths. According to the Times:
The judge found that the New York police were too quick to deem suspicious behavior that was perfectly innocent, in effect watering down the [Terry] legal standard required for a stop....
But the stops were not the end of the problem.... After officers stopped people, they often conducted frisks for weapons, or searched the subjects’ pockets for contraband, like drugs, without any legal grounds for doing so.
Also, she found that during police stops, blacks and Hispanics “were more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites.”
Scheindlin’s opening remarks set the stage for her ruling:
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Photo of protest led by Rev. Al Sharpton in New York City to end "stop and frisk" policy: AP Images