Critics of New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy got some good news Monday morning.
A federal judge found that the policy, which allows officers to detain and search citizens without a warrant, is a violation of a citizen's constitutional rights. The judge went a step further and called for a federally appointed monitor to oversee reforms to the system.
The call for reform has been ongoing, but this judgement came about in the case of four men who said that they were unfairly targeted by the NYPD because of their race.
In her decision, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin said that the NYPD has been performing searches of New Yorkers without any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. Of the estimated 4 million-plus stops that occurred between 2004 and mid-2012, about 88 percent ended with police finding no reportable offenses. The NYPD has ramped up its use of the stop-and-frisk policy — even as crime in the city has declined.
The lack of correlation between increasing stops and discovery of actual crime means that the NYPD has been abusing its power while disregarding the fourth amendment rights of citizens, the judge said.
The appointment of an independent monitor is a huge step in the fight against the stop-and-frisk policy, which has long been accused of racially profiling black and Hispanic men for searches. Lawyer Peter L. Zimroth is Scheindlin's choice to oversee reform to the program.
The decision is the second recent victory for opponents of the policy. The settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union will require the NYPD to purge its database of the names and addresses of New Yorkers who were stopped and frisked but cleared of any wrongdoing.
Obviously, Police Commissioner Ray Kelley and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were not pleased.
"Crime can come back any time the criminals think they can get away with things. We just cannot let that happen," Bloomberg said at a press conference following the ruling. "If this decision were to stand it would [it would] make this city and the whole country more dangerous."
Doesn't sound like fear mongering at all.