NEW YORK — The New York Police Department deliberately violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers with its contentious stop-and-frisk policy, and an independent monitor is needed to oversee major changes, a federal judge ruled Monday in a stinging rebuke for what the mayor and police commissioner have defended as a life-saving, crime-fighting tool.
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin said she was not putting an end to the policy, but rather was reforming it. She did not give many specifics on how that would work but instead named an independent monitor who would develop reforms to policies, training, supervision, monitoring and discipline. She also ordered that officers test out body-worn cameras in the police precinct where most stops occurred.
“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. “In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting `the right people’ is racially discriminatory.”
For years, police brass had been warned that officers were violating rights, but they nevertheless maintained and escalated “policies and practices that predictably resulted in even more widespread Fourth Amendment violations,” Scheindlin wrote in a lengthy opinion.
She also cited violations of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
“Far too many people in New York City have been deprived of this basic freedom far too often,” she said. “The NYPD’s practice of making stops that lack individualized reasonable suspicion has been so pervasive and persistent as to become not only a part of the NYPD’s standard operating procedure, but a fact of daily life in some New York City neighborhoods.”
Four men sued the department in 2004, saying they were unfairly targeted because of they were minorities. Scheindlin issued her ruling after a 10-week bench trial, which included testimony from NYPD brass and a dozen people – 11 men and one woman – who said they were wrongly stopped because of their race.
She found that nine of the 19 stops discussed at the trial were unconstitutional, and an additional five stops included wrongful frisking.
Stop and frisk is a constitutional police tactic, but Scheindlin concluded that the plaintiffs had “readily established that the NYPD implements its policies regarding stop and frisk in a manner that intentionally discriminates based on race.”
There have been about 5 million stops during the past decade, mostly black and Hispanic men. The judge said she determined at least 200,000 stops were made without reasonable suspicion, the necessary legal benchmark, lower than the standard of probable cause needed to justify an arrest.
The class-action lawsuit was the largest and most broad legal action against the policy at the nation’s biggest police department, and it may have an effect on how other police departments make street stops, legal experts said.
Lawmakers have also sought to create an independent monitor and make it easier for people to sue the department if they feel their civil rights were violated. Those bills are awaiting an override vote after the mayor vetoed the legislation.
The court monitor would examine stop and frisk specifically and could compel changes. The inspector general envisioned in the legislation would look at other issues but could only make recommendations.
The city had no immediate response to the ruling, but officials planned an early afternoon news conference to discuss it.
City lawyers had argued the department does a good job policing itself with an internal affairs bureau, a civilian complaint board and quality assurance divisions.
The judge rejected their arguments. “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,” she wrote. “But this reasoning is flawed because the stopped population is overwhelmingly innocent – not criminal.”
Scheindlin appointed Peter L. Zimroth, the city’s former lead attorney and previously a chief assistant district attorney, as the monitor. In both roles, Zimroth worked closely with the NYPD, the judge said. He did not respond to a call seeking comment.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, the nonprofit group that represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement: “Today is a victory for all New Yorkers. After more than 5 million stops conducted under the current administration, hundreds of thousands of them illegal and discriminatory, the NYPD has finally been held accountable. It is time for the city to stop denying the problem and work with the community to fix it.”
Photo Highlights: President Obama Chicago Farewell Speech
President Barack Obama makes his final farewell speech in his hometown of Chicago. Arriving at O'hare airport on Airforce One Tuesday, early evening was First Lady Michelle Obama, daughter Malia and Vice President Joe Biden along with wife, Jill Biden.
Making a final journey as the 44th President of the United States, expressways and local South Side streets were cleared as traffic stood at a complete when the 20-vehicle caravan made its way to Valois Restaurant in Hyde Park. There, President Obama conducted a one-on-one interview with NBC anchorman, Lester Holt before proceeding to give his farewell speech at McCormick Place.
Nearly 20,000 attendees packed the nearly standing-room only space in the East wing of the McCormick Place as VIP attendees sat upfront to hang onto the President's every word. There were various groups that traveled from far and near to be a part of history including celebrity sightings from Sharon Stone to Empire's Jussie Smollett--local and state dignitaries. Opening up the ceremony was a special performance by Hip hop/R&B singer, BJ the Chicago Kid showcasing belting out the national anthem is a smart blue suit.
Once President Obama hit the stage, the electric energy of emotions ran throughout the audience. At times, the crowd's applause was so loud that it impossible to hear him but there were moments that silence rippled throughout the venue--knowing this would be his last time addressing his hometown as Chief of Staff.
In his signature style of class, poise and honor--he addressed the various strides that he and his administration has made over the last eight years in protecting America's democracy. His emotions got the best of him when he addressed his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia who sat in the front row along with Vice President Joe Biden, wife Jill and his mother-in-law--Marian Shields Robinson.
<p class="p1"><span class="s1">“Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”</span></p>
<p class="p1">After the speech, the Obama family took time out to walk along the barricades, greeting and shaking hands with supporters and friends. The scene was definitely historic and we knew it was the end of an era of class that will not be duplicated in the White House for a very long time.</p>
<p class="p1"><a href="http://www.twitter.com/globalmixx">Follow Mary L. Datcher on Twitter</a></p>
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