NYPD Stop and Frisk on Trial

The New York Law Journal’s recent article Challenge to Stop-and-Frisk Policy Begins before Scheindlin reported on the March 18th start of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York trial in Floyd v. City of New York. Judge Shira Scheindlin is being asked to determine whether the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has a pattern or practice of unconstitutional stops directed from the top down. The complaint alleges that the more than five million stops conducted by the NYPD violate the 4th and 14th Amendment rights of those targeted. On May 16, 2012, Judge Scheindlin issued an Order granting Plaintiffs’ Class Certification Motion in the lawsuit filed against the NYPD and the City of New York. A 2012 NYCLU report provided a detailed picture of the NYPD’s stop and frisk program, including insights on the program’s stark racial disparities and its ineffectiveness in recovering illegal firearms.

On the first day of trial, four young men testified about being wrongly stopped by police. Opponents of the stop and frisk practices say they have left NYC neighborhoods suspicious of police. A key figure in the lawsuit is Senator Eric Adams, D-Brooklyn, a former officer and co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement. The article reports him asking Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly why the numbers of stop-and-frisks were so high for minority men to be told “because we want to instill in them” that they could be stopped at any time and they should “leave their guns at home.”

On the second day of the trial, an eight-year veteran of the NYPD described a police officer’s job that ranges beyond just making arrests to doing stop and frisks and writing summonses in service of quotas saying that his supervisors wanted numbers, he testified. “They only care about one thing–arrests, summonses and stop and frisks.” The lawyer for the NYPD responded that the quota claims area “sideshow” and that the NYPD has performance standards, not quotas with the number of stops reflecting police responding to high areas of criminal activity saying “Simply put, crime drives where police officers go, not race.”

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection the 4th edition of Search and Seizure (Call # KF9630 .H35 2012) a two-volume set by John Wesley Hall, a practicing trial lawyer who offers expert insight on issues such as reasonable expectation of privacy, consent, and probable cause, as well as guidelines governing search and seizure in vehicles, professional offices, and airports. Chapter 15 covers Stop and Frisk.