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Court Blocks NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Reforms, Removes Judge

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November, 2013
A sweeping set of changes to the New York City Police Department’s controversial "stop-and-frisk" program has been put on hold. In August, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin found the program unconstitutional, saying police had relied on a "policy of indirect racial profiling" that led officers to routinely stop "blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white."

While she did not halt the use of stop-and-frisk, Scheindlin appointed a federal court monitor to oversee a series of reforms. The city appealed Scheindlin’s ruling, saying it made officers "passive and scared" to frisk suspects. On Thursday, it got what it was hoping for, and much more. An appeals court stayed the changes, effectively postponing the operations of the monitor, while allowing police officers to continue using stop-and-frisk tactics. In a striking move, the court also took the unusual step of removing Scheindlin from the case, saying she "ran afoul" of the judiciary’s code of conduct and compromised the "appearance of impartiality surrounding this litigation" by granting media interviews while the case was pending before her. All of this comes as stop-and-frisk has been a major issue in New York City’s mayoral election, which takes place this Tuesday. "The next mayor should consider withdrawing the appeal," says Sunita Patel, co-counsel on the stop-and-frisk federal class action lawsuit and a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. "Any fair-minded and neutral judge to look at the record … will come up with the same conclusion. There was a nine-week trial. There is 23,000 pages of evidence here, 8,000 pages of trial transcript. No one could come to a different conclusion than Judge Scheindlin."

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