The NYPD is generally a well respected law enforcement organization. Even so, like all large departments, they are occasionally sullied by instances of police brutality and other wrongdoing by officers.
While many instances of police brutality are relatively isolated incidents committed by a handful of bad apple officers abusing their power, sometimes misconduct is institutionalized. In a new ruling striking down New York’s stop-and-frisk policy, a federal judge recently called foul on what is seen by many as one of the largest and longest running instances of misuse of police power in U.S. history.
Judge rules that 200,000 stops were conducted unconstitutionally
The stop-and-frisk policy of the NYPD has been standard practice for more than a decade. Under the policy, officers stop thousands of pedestrians every year, asking them questions and then patting them down to search for weapons and other items, like illegal drugs. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, approximately 684,000 people were stopped under the policy in 2011. NYPD data indicate that on average, only one out of every eight people stopped pursuant to the stop-and-frisk policy are actually accused of a crime.
In August, 2013, a federal just struck down the stop-and-frisk policy, ruling that the program violated the constitutional rights of NYC minorities. The vast majority of those stopped under the stop-and-frisk policy were minorities, and black and Hispanic individuals were stopped at a disproportionate rate.
The Constitution protects your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. To be reasonable, and therefore permissible, a stop-and-frisk like those performed regularly by the NYPD must be based on reasonable suspicion. That means to make a stop, police must reasonably suspect, based on specific facts, that the person being stopped has been or is about to be involved in criminal activity. Reasonable suspicion is more than a mere hunch, meaning police cannot just stop-and-frisk anyone with impunity.
According to the federal judge, since 2004, as many as 200,000 minority suspects were stopped without reasonable suspicion under the stop-and-frisk policy. Some of these stops appeared to have been based on racial profiling in violation of suspects’ right to equal protection.
A New York City civil rights attorney can help settle your claim against the NYPD
Is New York’s stop-and-frisk policy now a thing of the past? New York City is appealing the federal judge’s ruling, and the outcome is uncertain. But, at the very least, the problems with stop-and-frisk show just how widespread abuses of police power can become in New York City.
Illegal stops, police brutality and any of a range of civil rights violations can entitle victims to compensation. Just because actions are taken under the color of police power does not mean they are always rightful.
If your rights have been violated by the NYPD, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a New York City civil rights attorney to find out if you have a case.