lawsuit aiming to end the New York Police Department’s practice of stopping and frisking large amounts of black and Latino males on allegedly baseless grounds received a critical nod-of-approval yesterday from the federal court judge hearing the case.
Southern District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin denied the city of New York’s request to dismiss most of the claims in the lawsuit, saying that a jury trial is warranted, in light of evidence of police indifference to the need to train, monitor, supervise, and discipline officers with respect to racial profiling.
Of the recorded pedestrian stops the NYPD made in 2006, at least 85 percent involved people of color, with four percent involving people of unknown race, according to a report produced by an expert for the plaintiff’s attorneys. Fifty-three percent of the people stopped were black, 29 percent were Latino, 11 percent were white and 3 percent were Asian, the report found.
Most stops occur in Black and Latino neighborhoods, and even after adjustments for other factors including crime rates, social conditions and allocation of police resources in those neighborhoods, race is the main factor determining NYPD stops, the report found.
And, yesterday, the New York Civil Liberties Union released statistics indicating that from January through June 2011, NYPD stops increased 13.5 percent year-over-year.
But throughout the lawsuit, the city’s attorneys have argued that racial disparities in stop-and-frisk aren’t as stark as plaintiffs contend, contesting the reliability and methodology of their report.
The city plans to continue that line of defense, Heidi Grossman, deputy chief of the city Law Department’s special federal litigation division, told The New York Times:
“While the court has left it for the jury to determine whether the city has taken adequate action to ensure that stops of New Yorkers are handled appropriately, we are confident the jury will find in the city’s favor,” Grossman told the Times. “Indeed, the court noted that the city does not have an express policy of stopping minorities based on race.”
In addition, Scheindlin’s ruling awarded the city some victories. She granted their request to dismiss all claims against Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. And she dismissed one plaintiff’s claim that he was unreasonably stopped and frisked, while allowing him to continue his pursuit of his claim that he was unreasonably searched.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, attorneys for the plaintiffs, issued a press release yesterday celebrating its partial victory. “Today’s decision confirms what the plaintiffs and thousands of New Yorkers have known for years, which is that there are serious questions about the legality and fairness of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program,” said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Darius Charney. “Whether or not the City has violated the constitutional rights of law-abiding New Yorkers will now be for a jury to decide.”