Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Federal Court District of Manhattan ruled that aspects of the stop-and-frisks used by the New York Police Department were unconstitutional because officers were stopping individuals outside of residential buildings without sufficient suspicion that they were trespassing. Scheindlin also issued an injunction against stop-and-frisks by officers unless there is substantial evidence that an individual is trespassing. She is also considering ordering the NYPD to adopt a written policy that defines the limited cases in which an individual may be stopped as part of TAP.
“While it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the NYPD has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops” Scheindlin wrote in her decision. “The evidence of numerous unlawful stops at the hearing strengthens the conclusion that the NYPD’s inaccurate training has taught officers the following lesson: stop and question first, develop suspicions later.”
As part of the TAP program, property managers authorized the NYPD to patrol inside residential buildings and arrest those they find trespassing. However, Judge Scheindlin found that officers were frisking individuals that were only seen entering or leaving the building even if the individuals were guests or residents who did not have their identification.
“For those of us who do not fear being stopped as we approach or leave our own homes or those of our friends and families, it is difficult to believe that residents of one of our boroughs live under such a threat. In light of the evidence presented at the hearing, however, I am compelled to conclude that this [is unconstitutional],”concluded Scheindlin.
Media Resources: Businessweek 1/8/2013; Huffington Post 1/8/2013; New York Times 1/8/2013; Wall Street Journal 1/8/2013
The police beacon on the car from Shutterstock