Stop and frisk has been around for decades in some form, but recorded stops increased dramatically under the Bloomberg administration to an all-time high in 2011 of 684,330, mostly of black and Hispanic men. The lawsuit was filed in 2004 by four men, all minorities, and became a class-action case.
About half the people who are stopped are subject only to questioning. Others have their bag or backpack searched, and sometimes police conduct a full pat-down. Only 10 percent of all stops result in arrest, and a weapon is recovered a small fraction of the time.
Scheindlin noted she was not putting an end to the practice, which is constitutional, but was reforming the way the NYPD implemented its stops.
The judge presided over a 10-week bench trial this year that included testimony from NYPD brass and a dozen people — 11 men and one woman — who said they were wrongly stopped because of their race. She found that nine of the 19 stops discussed in court were unconstitutional, and that an additional five stops included wrongful frisking.
In her long ruling, she determined at least 200,000 stops were made without reasonable suspicion, the necessary legal benchmark, lower than the standard of probable cause needed to justify an arrest. She said that rank-and-file officers were pressured by superiors to make stops — and that police brass ignored mounting evidence that bad stops were being made.
Witness Nicholas Peart, who wept on the stand during the trial as he described a frightening encounter with police, said Monday that he hoped the ruling would mean “tremendous steps forward.”
“I felt that it restores a sense of trust,” said the 24-year-old Peart, who is black. “Our voices do count, and count towards something greater.”
(AP Photo: Nicholas Peart, Lilat Clarkson, Leroy Downes, Devin Almonar and David Ourlicht, left to right, plaintiffs in the stop and frisk case, pose for a photo after a news conferece at the Center for Constitutional Rights, in New York.)