New York Police Stop Every Young Black Man in the City…For Safety [MORE]
From [HERE] A lawsuit alleging racial bias in the New York Police Department’s so-called stop-and-frisk tactics will proceed under class-action status, clearing the way for thousands of potential plaintiffs to join the legal challenge.
The decision by Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan federal court also criticized the city’s “cavalier attitude” in response to claims police have conducted illegal searches.
Her ruling could dramatically expand a 2008 lawsuit filed by four individuals who claimed their constitutional rights had been trampled by the city’s effort to combat crime through stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking those suspected of street crimes.
Critics of stop and frisk, including the plaintiffs, have argued that the police tactic disproportionately targets Hispanic and African-American males. The lawsuit specifically alleges that the NYPD disproportionately targets black and Latino citizens without reasonable suspicion of a crime.
Judge Scheindlin wrote that the class-action status was designed “precisely for cases such as this,” in which “the vast majority of New Yorkers who are unlawfully stopped will never bring suit to vindicate their rights.”
Of the more than 685,000 stops conducted by NYPD officers last year, 168,126 of them — or almost 25% – were of black men aged 14 to 24, according to a recent analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union. That number exceeded the city’s population of black men in that age range.
The city has argued against the class-action status on the ground that the original plaintiffs “fail to identify an official policy, or its equivalent” in their lawsuit, according to the decision. The judge wrote that the city’s argument fails to acknowledge “overwhelming evidence that there in fact exists a centralized stop and frisk program that has led to thousands of unlawful stops.”
Judge Scheindlin reserved her sharpest criticisms for the city’s claim that a court order against the stop-and-frisk policy couldn’t guarantee an end to what the city described as “suspicionless stops.”
“First, suspicionless stops should never occur,” the judge wrote in reply. “Defendants’ cavalier attitude towards the prospect of a ‘widespread practice of suspicionless stops’ displays a deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.”
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on Wednesday said he could not comment on lawsuit. He said simply that the class-action certification “is what it is.”
Darius Charney, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the lead lawyer in the 2008 lawsuit, welcomed the class-action ruling as a way to include anyone “for whom this practice is a daily reality”
“The court has rightly recognized that illegal stops-and-frisks are not limited to a few rogue police officers but are the product of a program designed at the highest level of the police department and affect hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of New Yorkers,” he said.