Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. is a federal class action lawsuit filed against the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the City of New York that challenges the NYPD's practices of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop-and frisks. Use this link to view the Floyd v. City of New York case page.
Floyd v. City of New York is a class-action lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy. The case charges the police department with a policy and practice of unreasonable, suspicionless and racially discriminatory stops in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause barring racial discrimination.
To be legal, a police stop must be based on a reasonable, articulable, individualized suspicion of criminal activity. The NYPD’s own data show hundreds of thousands of unconstitutional stops just in the last three years. Expert analysis of that data reveals that after controlling for crime, neighborhood, patterns of police deployment and other factors, the deciding factor in stops by the NYPD is race.
Filed in 2008, the case was certified as a class-action in May 2012, making all people illegally stopped since 2005 plaintiffs. The case is before Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York.
Co-counsel in the case is Covington & Burling LLP and Beldock, Levine & Hoffman LLP.
Floyd is the culmination of more than 15 years of work by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the solid determination of a citywide movement that has made stop and frisk a central issue in New York City politics. The rebirth of a decades-long movement against abusive and discriminatory policing grew out of the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Black man standing in the doorway of his apartment building killed by police in a hail of 41 bullets. Part of the response was CCR’s landmark 1999 case, Daniels v. City of New York, that led to the disbanding of the infamous NYPD Street Crime Unit, which responsible for killing Diallo. Daniels settled in 2003, and part of the settlement required the City to provide quarterly stop-and-frisk data to CCR. When it became clear the City was not abiding by the settlement and that the number of unconstitutional stops had grown exponentially, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed Floyd v. City of New York on January 31, 2008.
The court will hear from witnesses, including whistleblower police officers, criminologists, precinct commanders, City agency heads, and New Yorkers who have been stopped illegally without reasonable suspicion. The court will hear recordings and evidence of how quotas and numbers-focused policing drive illegal stop-and-frisk practices and examine expert analysis of all the NYPD’s data on stop and frisk.
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks. The judge will likely take some time to issue her decision after that.
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks. The judge will likely take some time to issue her decision after that.
CCR, allies and partners seek a comprehensive, collaborative process that brings all stakeholders to the table – residents, community leaders, church leaders, business owners, both police brass and beat officers, City officials, attorneys in the case,and others – to hammer out the specific remedies that will best work for all New Yorkers.
Cincinnati’s experience (the 2002 Collaborative Agreement between the Police Department, the Fraternal Order of Police and civil rights advocates and grassroots organizations representing African-American residents of the City who had been illegally stopped and searched by police) provides a successful model for this kind of approach, whereas the NYPD’s violation of the settlement terms of Daniels provides a cautionary tale about the effectiveness of limited consent decrees.
The Ligon and Davis cases were both filed later as related cases to Floyd and each concern a specific subset of stop-and-frisk violations that fall under the umbrella of the Floyd case, which takes on the entirety of the city’s stop-and-frisk practices. All three cases are before Judge Sheindlin. Once Floyd is decided, Ligon will join in the remedy phase.
FACT: Stop and frisk nets very few criminals of any kind. Only 6 percent of stops result in arrests (and another 6 percent result in summons). The arrests are overwhelmingly not for violent crimes but rather for so-called quality of life violations. More important, the vast majority of people are not stopped because they fit the descriptions of suspects in a violent crime but for vague and reasons like “furtive movement.” In only about 15 percent of stops do police officers record the reason as “fits description,” while “furtive movement” is listed in 54 percent of all stops.
FACT: The rate of seizure of guns during stops is miniscule: 0.15 percent. This is lower than the rate of gun seizures at random checkpoints, suggesting both that it is an ineffective way to try to get guns off the street and that seizing weapons is not really the reason people are being stopped. (For all “contraband,” the number is still only 1.8 percent.)
FACT: There is no credible evidence and not a single published study showing that stop and frisk has played a meaningful role in the reduction of crime, no matter how many times officials repeat that talking point. Large cities that do not have an aggressive stop-and-frisk policy have seen a similar reduction in crime.
(Blacks were 55 percent of the stop subjects and 66 percent of the violent crime suspects in 2012, Latinos 32 percent of stops, 26 percent of violent crime suspects, according to the City‘s press release on the year‘s statistics)
FACT: People are not being stopped on suspicion of being violent criminals, since ‘fits description” is cited only in only about 15 percent of stops, and about the same percentage of stops are made on suspicion of violent crimes (the majority of stops are on suspicion of property, quality of life, and minor drug crimes). Moreover, suspect race is completely unknown in nearly 40 percent of all crimes reported to the NYPD each year.
FACT: While “high crime area” is checked off on 60 percent of stop records, a comparison of actual crime rates reveals that the claim was made at roughly the same rate regardless of the actual crime rate in an area. A disproportionate number of stops were of Blacks and Latinos in predominately white neighborhoods, too.
After controlling for crime, local social conditions and the concentration of police officers in an area, race is a primary explanatory factor for stops at both the individual and neighborhood level. Blacks and Latinos accounted for 87 percent of 2012 stops, but they are only 53 percent of the population.
FACT: These changes are window dressing at best.
The new anti-racial profiling policy the NYPD introduced is virtually identical to the old one. The department has always had a decent policy on paper, the problem has been that they did not implement it in practice. Issuing a new written policy does nothing to address the issue.
The only change the NYPD made to its internal stop-and-frisk audits and self-inspections was to change the title of the person in each precinct who conducts them from Integrity Control Officer to Executive Officer. Everything else about the audit, which does nothing more than check completed UF250 stop forms to make sure officers filled them out correctly, remains the same.
The new training documents and videos the NYPD issued last spring and used to “retrain” NYPD personnel last summer actually misstate the Fourth Amendment law on stop and frisk, as Judge Scheindlin found in her January decision in Ligon.
533,042 stop and frisks for 2012: the numbers dipped but racial disparities stay constant
87 percent of New Yorkers stopped are Black and Latino
The number of stops of New Yorkers has shot up from about 115,000 in 2002, the year the NYPD began keeping stop-and-frisk figures, to a peak of 685,000 in 2011. After prolonged public outcry, organized community response, and continuing legal action, total stops dropped in 2012, but the unconstitutional racial disparities in who is stopped have remained constant throughout. For many Black and Latino youth, getting stopped by the police while walking home from school remains a normal afterschool activity.
In 2012, 87 percent of the stops were of Black and Latino men and women, the same as in 2011
The racial disparity in the stops is increasing: from 2005 to 2008, approximately 80 percent of total stops made were of Blacks and Latinos
Blacks make up approximately 25 percent of New York City’s total population, and Latinos 28 percent. CCR has found significant racial disparities for stop-and-frisks over the last decade based on detailed NYPD data turned over by court order, and that is part of the basis for the Center’s class action lawsuit challenging stop-and-frisk that goes to trial on March 18, 2013.
Only 1.3 percent of last year’s stops resulted in the discovery of a weapon of any kind
In 2012, from more than half a million stops, the NYPD reports a yield of 780 guns, a rate of only 0.15 percent
Only 6 percent of the stops resulted in arrests
An analysis of the NYPD’s data revealed that nearly 100,000 stops were unconstitutional in the period January 2010 – June 2012; they lacked reasonable articulable suspicion and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.
A decade’s worth of previous data shows that race is the main factor determining NYPD stops. This is true even after adjustments are made for other factors including crime rates, social conditions, and allocations of police resources in various neighborhoods. Most stops occur in Black and Latino neighborhoods and, in all neighborhoods, Blacks and Latinos are significantly more likely to be stopped than Whites.
In addition, stop-and-frisk data has repeatedly shown that NYPD officers use physical force at a significantly higher rate during stops of Blacks and Latinos.
Despite insistence by the NYPD that stop-and-frisk has helped reduce crime, the practice has never been shown to yield a statistically-relevant reduction in crime. In fact, the weapons and contraband yield from stop-and-frisk is the same as from random checkpoints, despite the NYPDs attempts to justify the program as key to confiscating illegal weapons.
Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
Darius Charney is a senior staff attorney in the Center for Constitutional Rights Racial Justice/Government Misconduct Docket. He is currently lead counsel on Floyd v. City of New York, and Vulcan Society Inc. v. the City of New York, a Title VII class action lawsuit on behalf of African-American applicants to the New York City Fire Department that challenges the racially discriminatory hiring practices of the FDNY.
Prior to coming to CCR in 2008, Mr. Charney spent two-and-a-half years as an associate at the New York law firm of Lansner & Kubitschek, where he litigated federal civil rights cases challenging various aspects of New York City and New York State’s child welfare and foster care systems. He received his JD and M.S.W. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley in 2001. From 2003-2005, he was law clerk to the Honorable Deborah A. Batts, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York.
Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
Sunita Patel is currently a Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she litigates racial profiling, immigrant justice, and other human rights issues. She is counsel for NDLON v. ICE, a FOIA lawsuit seeking records related to the illusive “Secure Communities” program of the Immigration Customs Enforcement agency; Floyd v. City of New York, and Turkmen v. Ashcroft, the class action suit on behalf of Arab and Muslim men rounded up in immigration sweeps after 9/11. Ms. Patel argued Cardenas-Abreu v. Holder before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a petition for review challenging the Board of Immigration Appeals' precedent opinion holding that a New York late-filed, yet pending, direct criminal appeal provides sufficient basis for a removal order.
Prior to her position at CCR, Ms. Patel held a Soros Justice Fellowship at The Legal Aid Society, Immigration Law Unit in New York, where she represented immigrant detainees in removal proceedings and worked with criminal justice and human rights groups to create independent community oversight for detention operations through public accountability boards. She was law clerk for the Honorable Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Ms. Patel published an article in 2006 entitled “Performative Aspects of Race: ‘Arab, Muslim, and South Asian’ Racial Formation After September 11” in the UCLA Asian Pacific American Law Journal. Prior to law school, she investigated conditions of confinement in Alabama and Georgia juvenile detention centers, prisons, and jails as a paralegal at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. She is a member of the Board of Directors for Families for Freedom and the US Human Rights Network. She is a member of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and the Detention Watch Network.
Bertha Fellow, Center for Constitutional Rights
Chauniqua Young is the Bertha Fellow for the Government Misconduct/Racial Justice Docket at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Her work focuses on challenging unconstitutional government practices and racial discrimination. Ms. Young received her law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2012. During law school, she interned at the International Commission for Labor Rights, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, and the plaintiff-side labor and employment law firms Gladstein Reif & Meginniss and Spivak Lipton.
Ms. Young was also an advocate in the Suspension Representation Project, a mediator in the Cardozo Mediation Clinic and worked in the Cardozo International Human Rights and Genocide Prevention Clinic. Upon graduation, she received the E. Nathaniel Gates Award for her work in the Human Rights Clinic and as president of the Cardozo Black Law Students Association. Prior to law school, Ms. Young was a Development Associate with the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, California.
Philip Irwin of Covington & Burling LLP
Eric Hellerman of Covington & Burling LLP
Gretchen Hoff Varner of Covington & Burling LLP
Jonathan C. Moore of Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP
The first time medical student David Floyd, a 33-year-old African-American man, was stopped, frisked, and searched by the NYPD, it was approximately a block-and-a-half from his home in the Bronx, in the middle of the afternoon. Floyd was walking home from the subway when three uniformed NYPD officers in a dark van pulled up next to him. They asked to speak with him, and then stepped out of the van and walked towards him aggressively. Startled, Floyd stopped walking. The officers asked to see his ID, which he provided, and one of the officers began to frisk Floyd and asked if he had any weapons or contraband on him. Floyd answered no and told them that he did not consent to a search - but the officers did not stop searching him, including reaching into his pockets. When the search was over, Floyd asked the officers why they had stopped him, but they did not answer. This stop inspired Floyd, who had long been involved in community organizing around police accountability issues, to get involved in litigation with the Center for Constitutional Rights surrounding the NYPD’s stop and frisk practices.
The second time David Floyd was stopped and searched it was right in front of his home, again in the middle of the afternoon, as he was leaving to attend a class at City College. Floyd’s neighbor was renting a basement apartment in Floyd’s godmother’s home, where Floyd also lived, and had locked himself out. So, on his way out, Floyd attempted to open the apartment door with his godmother’s spare set of keys. Before he was able to do so, three plainclothes NYPD officers came up behind Floyd and his neighbor, told them to stop what they were doing, ordered them to put their hands against the wall, and then began to frisk them. The officers asked Floyd and his neighbor whether they lived in the building and demanded that they produce identification. When Floyd asked the officers why he and his neighbor had been detained and searched, the officers answered that there had been several robberies in the neighborhood recently. However, NYPD data subsequently showed that only one burglary and no robberies were reported in Floyd’s neighborhood in the two months before this incident.
David Ourlicht was stopped and frisked by the NYPD three times in the span of only six months in 2008. He is a 25-year-old Italian-American and African-American SUNY graduate. The first search happened in January 2008 while he was walking home from class at St. John’s University in Jamaica Queens to the house he was renting at the time near the University. An officer stopped Ourlicht, claiming he thought Ourlicht had a gun under his clothes, asked him for ID and searched through all of Ourlicht’s clothing, but found no weapons or contraband. When the search ended, Ourlicht said, “You’re taking my information, now do you mind if I take yours?” and wrote down the officer’s badge and scooter numbers. The officer responded, “Now you’re getting the full treatment,” threw Ourlicht against a wall, and issued him a summons for disorderly conduct, even though he Ourlicht had complied with all of the officer’s requests. The charge was ultimately dismissed.
The second time, less than a month later, Ourlicht was again walking near his home in Queens with a white friend when they were stopped and searched. Four officers drove up in an unmarked car. Three of them surrounded Ourlicht and frisked him, while the other one quietly spoke to Ourlicht’s friend. The officers told Ourlicht that if they found any drugs on him, they would arrest him. After a full search of Ourlicht’s clothing, the officers found nothing and left.
In June 2008, Ourlicht was helping a friend move furniture out of his grandmother’s apartment in a predominantly African-American public housing complex in Harlem. Ourlicht was sitting on a bench in the courtyard of the complex with four other African-American men when two uniformed police officers ran towards them with guns drawn. The officers shouted that there was a report of someone in the complex with a gun, and to get face down on the ground, which Ourlicht and the other four men did immediately. Three more officers arrive and searched all five men, finding no weapons or contraband, and let them go.
After so many frightening, humiliating experiences, Ourlicht is afraid of being stopped, searched, and harassed every time he walks down the street. In addition, it was due in part to these repeated incidents of harassment that he chose to transfer from St. John’s University in Queens to SUNY Albany in 2009. Now back in New York City after graduating from SUNY Albany, he carries his passport any time he leaves his house because he is stopped so many times by police asking for ID.
In January 2006, Lalit Clarkson, a 31-year-old African-American man, was stopped by NYPD officers while on lunch break from his assistant teaching position at Grand Concourse Academy Charter School in the Bronx. Two plainclothes officers had followed Clarkson from a bodega where he had bought chips to eat with his lunch.
After they stopped him, the officers stood between Clarkson and the street to prevent him from leaving and began aggressively questioning him. The officers claimed they had seen Clarkson coming from the vicinity of a known drug haven on 168th Street. Clarkson was unaware of any such building or drug activity on the block.
One of the officers then asked Clarkson if he had any contraband. Clarkson answered that he did not and stated that he did not consent to a search. The officer repeated his question. Clarkson provided the same answer. The officer raised his voice and asked a third time, “So if I go into your pockets, you‘re telling me you don‘t have anything?” By this time, people from nearby businesses had come outside to watch the incident. When Clarkson answered a third time that he did not have any contraband and did not consent to a search, the officers left without further questioning about the alleged “drug building.”
Deon Dennis is a 41-year-old African-American man who was stopped by the NYPD in 2008 while smoking a cigarette outside his girlfriend’s apartment in Harlem during her birthday party. The officers asked Dennis if he’d been drinking, accused him of having an open container of alcohol though he had nothing in his hands, demanded ID, and began to search him. They refused to answer Dennis’s girlfriend when she asked why they were searching him. Though the officers found nothing in Dennis’s pockets other than his wallet, the officers handcuffed him and told him there was a 15-year-old bench warrant for his arrest for hopping a subway turnstile. Dennis protested that he was unaware of any warrant, but the officers took him to the police precinct anyway. While at the precinct, Dennis asked several times why he had been arrested, and was given several different answers, including that he had been mistakenly arrested, that he had no warrant, and that he had been arrested because of a 1994 disorderly conduct warrant, even though Dennis was living in South Carolina in 1994. After about seven hours, Dennis was transferred to Central Booking, where he was held for another four hours and then released. When Dennis was released, an officer told him, “[Y]ou never had a warrant. I don’t know why they arrested you,” and that the warrant division is open twenty-four hours a day - if the officers were unsure about a warrant, they could have called to check at any time.
Nicholas Peart is a 24-year-old African-American man of Jamaican descent and graduate of the Borough of Manhattan Community College. He works at the youth support services after-school project, Brotherhood/SisterSol. Peart has been stopped and frisked by the NYPD between five and ten times, beginning when he was 16 years old. One of these instances was Peart‘s 18th birthday in August 2006. Peart, his cousin, and a friend were sitting on a bench in the median of Broadway near 96th Street when squad cars surrounded them and a group of police officers rushed out of their vehicles with guns drawn. “Get on the ground!” they shouted, which the men immediately did. The officers pointed their guns at Peart, his cousin, and his friend and frisked them. When one of the officers looked at the birthdate on Peart’s ID, he said, sarcastically, “happy birthday.”
Another time, Peart was stopped and frisked in spring 2008 as he was leaving his grandmother’s house in Flatbush, Brooklyn. As he was walking on her driveway from the house to the sidewalk, a police car drove passed - then reversed and stopped near him. Three officers got out of the car and told Peart to stop and put his hands up against the neighbor’s garage door. The officers frisked him, took his ID, made a notation, and then got back in the car and drove away.
The most recent incident was around 11:00 p.m. in May 2011. Peart was walking to a corner store near his apartment when two officers jumped out of an unmarked car parked along the street. “Stop!” they yelled, and told Peart to put his hands up. He immediately complied and put his hands against a church wall. One of the officers frisked him, finding only Peart’s wallet, keys, and cell phone - which they took. The officer then handcuffed Peart and grabbed his sweatshirt at the chest and held tightly. Peart told the officers he didn’t understand what was going on, and they asked if he had come from 129 West 144th Street. Peart said no, and explained that he lived elsewhere on the same block. The officers put Peart in the back of the police car, handcuffed, and tried to enter his apartment using his keys. Peart’s 18-year-old sister and two younger siblings were in the apartment at the time and were extremely frightened that the police were trying to enter the apartment. Peart’s sister tried to call him several times, but because his phone had been confiscated, he was unable to answer. Meanwhile, one of the officers asked if Peart had any marijuana (which he did not), removed Peart’s shoes and patted down his socks. When Peart asked why he was being detained and frisked, the police explained that someone in his building had complained that a person had been ringing their doorbell.
These and other incidents have caused Peart to change his daily life. He worries when police drive by. He dresses up when he goes downtown, and does not hang out with friends in his neighborhood in Harlem as much as he used to. He fears that he might find himself up against a wall or on the ground with a police officer’s gun at his head at any time.