Calder (2013) argued that the federal court Judge Shira Scheindlin of Manhattan has declared that the controversial stop-and-frisk practices of the New York Police Department (NYPD) for being unconstitutional since the police force had acted with deliberate indifference against the minorities. As an effect, the act of NYPD in sanctioning those who are apprehended for stop-and-frisk has violated the Constitutional provisions on searches and seizures as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, the police was charged for directly targeting minorities and transgressed their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment against equal protections and due process and the Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Judge Scheindlin instructed that an independent monitor must be established by appointing Peter Zimroth, who was a former prosecutor of Manhattan and a private lawyer to ensure that the NYPD will comply with her decision. The intention Judge Scheindlin is merely to implement a major restructuring of the stop-and-frisk practice, but does not intend to terminate the procedure. In addition, Judge Scheindlin has termed the NYPD police practice as “indirect racial profiling” since the approach is directed against racially defined groups, which has resulted to discriminatory stoppage of many Hispanics and Black Americans whenever they leave their homes as they continue with their daily life activities. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited the states from treating persons differently based on characteristics such as race, color, age, nationality, ethnicity gender and social standing. The judge claims that it is unfortunate that the mayor of the city has continued to turn a blind eye on these constitutional violations (Vaughan, 2013).
In the report of Vaughan (2013), some of those who were affected by indirect racial profiling are the black Americans and those who come from the Hispanic race, who were mostly males. They were the plaintiffs in the case that was decided by the judge of Manhattan as they gathered in the CCR press conference when the ruling was issued. Some of them were in tears while they cheered for the favorable decision of the federal judge who declared that racial profiling was a violation of the Constitution. One of the plaintiffs was David Ourlicht, male, 25 years of age who was stopped and frisked in 2008 by the police at St. John’s University in Queens, after the police claims that he walked in a suspicious manner as they saw the bulge underneath his winter clothes (Vaughan, 2013). Ourlicht was moved into tears with the decision of the judge saying that the ruling will become an eye-opener for the society as the stop-and-frisk tactic of the NYPD imposes racial discrimination using his own personal experience for coming from mixed race of black and white ancestry. Such decision will favor those who have undergone the same predicament of being stopped-and-frisked by the NYPD based solely on race or the color of their skin.
Judge Scheindlin explained that the ruling was not meant to abandon the existing proactive policing of the NYPD and adopt the less effective police practices during the earlier years. Instead, there should be a balance of interest by the NYPD to be observed by the police force and at the same time still maintaining the proactive approach. In fact, proactive manner of policing does not only deal with crime control and prevention, should also safeguard the constitutional rights of the public (Calder, 2013). The primary objective of the NYPD should be to protect the interest of the people and to ensure that their rights recognized under the Constitution should not be harmed.
However, the decision of Manhattan Judge Scheindlin was opposed by Mayor Bloomberg by saying that such ruling is incorrect since the stop-and-frisk police practices of the NYPD is meant to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers (Calder, 2013). In fact, the decision made by the judge was regarded as a dangerous ruling since the judge is not an expert to know the efficient policing strategies and such issue must be decided by the Supreme Court. The mayor had pointed out that if the ruling of Judge Scheindlin will be enforced, the crime rates will increase and is considered an impediment on the current police practices. Mayor Bloomberg continued to defend his stand by stating that the New Yorkers are also entitled to the right to walk down the street feeling safe and secured without the fear of being mugged or murdered (Vaughan, 2013). Bloomberg maintains that the program being enforced by the NYPD produced positive results especially in terms of crime reduction which resulted in making New York as the best example of being a safe city among the other U.S. states. The stand of Mayor Bloomberg was supported by NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly who stated that the stop-and-frisk policies currently in use by the NYPD was a major influence in lowering the crime rate, which in effect, saved many innocent lives (Carruthers, 2013).
While it is true that the current NYPD stop-and-frisk approach became a major crime deterrent, it bears stressing that the rights of the people under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment must be upheld, without compromise. The judge is correct in saying that proactive policing should not be completely obliterated. Instead, the Mayor and the NYPD should conduct a balancing of interest by recognizing the rights of the people under the Constitution. Barkan (2009) argued that the principle of equal protection states that all persons should be treated in equal footing as to granting of rights and privileges and the accountabilities that are to be imposed regardless color, race, age, gender. This is in accordance to the due process concept under the constitution where it declares that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty and property without reasonable and unlawful procedures. Thus, the proactive police approach on the stop-and-frisk practice of the NYPD should observe civil liberties since they represent the legal protections and individual freedoms that are due to every citizen to protecting them from any force and undue influence of the government. Some of these freedoms and protections include the right to privacy, the right to free press and the right to due process of law. Under the principle of the civil rights of the Constitution, public policies must be enforced to promote equal treatment in society that prohibits any form of discrimination on the basis of race, age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability or sexual orientation (Samaha, 2011).
Noteworthy is the fact that under ideal circumstances, there is a presumption that the law must be applied impartially to all persons without any qualifications. Based on the argument of Judge Scheindlin, the stop-and-frisk approach being followed by the NYPD has resulted to “indirect racial profiling” since many Hispanics and black Americans who became the victims of such police practice. This is a clear violation of the equal protection principle since the criminal justice system must continuously strive to promote the interest of the general public and must not result to denial of their basic rights.
The stop-and-frisk tactic of the NYPD resulted to unfair discrimination of the minorities. According to the report of Calder (2013), the records have shown that the is an approximate of 4.4 million individuals who were stopped and frisked by the officers from the NYPD in the years covering 2004 and 2012, and at least 80 percent of these individuals were either from Hispanic or black lineage. The judge regards these police practice as an interruption of the personal life of each person who had to undergo each of the searchers made by officers of the NYPD. Furthermore, after the stop-and-frisk, these individuals were subjected to the use of force compared to the whites. Such practice was implemented even there was glaring evidence that the whites were found to be possessing unlicensed firearms or contraband (Calder, 2013). However, the Mayor, NYPD Commissioner and the department repeatedly remain steadfast in their stand that the stop-and-frisk practices is an advantage for the New Yorkers since it will help save lives for making the city a safer place to live in. Despite such claims, Judge Scheindlin ruled otherwise based on statistical and anecdotal evidence showing that the minorities were treated differently compared to white Americans.
Even though the proactive police approach is commendable based on the report made by Commissioner Kelly for reduction of the murder crime rate in New York to 50 percent, lowering the incidents of robbery in the city to 5.4 percent and the decline of the shooting incidents to 22 percent for the past 12 years after Mayor Bloomberg took office (Carruthers, 2013), such approach cannot be a justification to implement discriminatory policies against the minorities.
The ruling of Judge Shira Scheindlin should be upheld since there was a clear showing that the practice of making stop-and-frisk lack legal basis for not being able to substantiate the reasonable suspicion required by the Fourth Amendment. In fact, the searches have become completely pervasive and persistent which turned-out to be a burden for the entire New York City neighborhood. In effect, such standard operating procedure of the police force has placed a restriction on the normal day-to-day activities of the New Yorkers (Calder, 2013). The judge’s act of requiring the police department to use miniature cameras is also commendable since it will be able to record the stops being made by the NYPD cops. Requiring the police to wear the cameras for a period of one year to enable the court to monitor the stops will provide access to the court to keep an “objective record” of the interactions with the civilians as ordered by the judge (Calder, 2013).
Therefore, the goals expressed by the Constitution in the past should be achieved in the same approach at present time and that every state must ensure that policing practices and tactics should observe the rights of all Americans any should not deny them of their civil liberties and personal freedoms on the basis of race, color, age, gender or social standing. Although the intention of the Mayor and Police Commissioner is to make the city safer through the stop-and-frisk approach, the policy should not promote the discrimination of the minorities.
Barkan, S.E. (2009). Law and Society: An Introduction. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Calder, R. (2013). NYPD’s stop-frisk policy violated rights: judge. Nypdpost.com. Web.
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Carruthers, W. (2013). NYPD Police Commissioner: Stop-and-Frisk Saving Lives.
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Samaha, J. (2011). Criminal Procedure. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Vaughan, B. (2013). NYPD's stop-and-frisk practice unconstitutional, judge rules. Reuters.com
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