A federal judge dealt a substantial blow to Mayor Bloomberg’s administration by ruling on Monday that the way the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy is practiced violates civil rights.
The ruling came as the conclusion of a class-action lawsuit against the policy, in which 12 people testified that they were wrongly stopped by NYPD officers on the basis of their race. U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin concluded that “the city acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stop and conducting unconstitutional frisks.”
“In addition, the city adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data,” Scheindlin continued in the ruling. “This has resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.”
Scheindlin’s ruling did not end the policy, but did require that an independent monitor be appointed to oversee changes in the department that would assure adjustments in the policy. As monitor, Scheindlin appointed Peter Zimroth, former chief legal officer of the New York City law department and prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s and Manhattan District Attorney’s offices. Zimroth will report to Scheindlin, who “retains jurisdiction to issue orders necessary to remedy the constitutional violations.”
The ruling also requires that the NYPD test out a new camera policy, which would require officers to wear cameras on their uniforms to record stops. The test period will last for one year, after which the monitor will determine whether the cameras fulfilled their purpose of reducing unconstitutional stops and whether the cameras’ benefits outweigh their cost. Adoption of the policy would make the NYPD a rare example of police departments in the country that utilize uniform cameras.
Within hours of the decision’s release, Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed his desire to appeal, saying that the judge showed a “disturbing disregard” for the “good intentions” of NYPD officers. The mayor credited the “stop-and-frisk” policy with the substantial dip in crime and gun violations seen in New York City in recent years.