May 16, 2012, New York –Today, a federal judge granted class certification in a lawsuit challenging the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) stop-and-frisk practices as unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. The ruling will allow all persons unlawfully stopped and frisked since January 2005 to be plaintiffs in the lawsuit. In 2011, the NYPD reported a record 685,724 stops—a 600 percent increase since Raymond Kelly took over as NYPD commissioner in 2002. Eighty-four percent of those stopped were Black or Latino, and 88 percent of persons stopped were not arrested, nor did they receive summonses. The plaintiffs are represented by the Center of Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the law firms of Beldock, Levine, and Hoffman and Covington & Burling, LLP.
“The Court has rightly recognized that illegal stops-and-frisks are not limited to a few rogue police officers but are the product of a program designed at the highest level of the police department and affect hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of New Yorkers,” said Center for Constitutional Rights senior staff attorney Darius Charney. “As a result of today’s ruling, all those for whom this practice is a daily reality will now have an opportunity to challenge it as a violation of their fundamental constitutional rights and to ask the Court to order real changes in NYPD stop-and-frisk policy.”
Affected communities, policing experts, and civil rights advocates alike have argued for years that stop-and-frisk policies are both wrong and wrong-headed. Not only do they violate the rights of hundreds or thousands of New Yorkers every year, they also do not make New Yorkers safer. There is no evidence that stop-and-frisk is responsible for the drop in New York City’s crime rate in recent years. On the contrary, New Yorkers feel less safe and often have their lives upended by unlawful stops, and many communities, particularly communities of color, feel that they are under siege.
As Judge Scheindlin noted in her decision: “Suspicionless stops should never occur. Defendants’ cavalier attitude towards the prospect of a ‘widespread practice of suspicionless stops’ displays a deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.”
The lawsuit is Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al.
and challenges stop-and-frisk as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits racially discriminatory policing, as well as a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. According to analysis by Columbia University law professor Jeffrey Fagan, who will provide expert testimony in the case, even after adjustments are made for other factors – including crime rates and allocations of police resources – race is a primary factor determining NYPD stops. Most stops occur in Black and Latino neighborhoods and, in all neighborhoods, Blacks and Latinos are significantly more likely to be stopped than whites. The data has also repeatedly shown that NYPD officers use physical force at a significantly higher rate during stops of Blacks and Latinos.
Said co-counsel Jonathan Moore of Beldock, Levine and Hoffman, “In the face of withering public criticism of this practice by the media and our politicians, and in light of Judge Scheindlin’s decision to certify this matter as a class action, it is time for Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg to sit down with the plaintiffs in this case and resolve this constitutional crisis so that all New Yorkers can feel safe walking the streets.”
Said named Plaintiff Lalit Clarkson, who was illegally stopped on his way back from a lunch break from his job as an elementary school teacher in the Bronx in 2006, “The judge affirmed what New Yorkers have said for years-- the NYPD's stop and frisk practice should be put on trial to bring justice for thousands of people.”
Read Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s class certification ruling here
Floyd stems from the Center for Constitutional Rights’ landmark racial profiling case, Daniels, et al. v. City of New York, et al., which led to the disbanding of the NYPD’s infamous Street Crime Unit and a settlement with the City in 2003. The Daniels settlement agreement required the NYPD to maintain a written racial profiling policy that complies with the United States and New York State Constitutions and to provide stop-and-frisk data to CCR on a quarterly basis.