New York City’s Stop-and-Frisk program finally had its day in court, and it lost. A federal judge in Manhattan has ordered the New York City Police Department to stop making stops for trespassing outside certain privately owned Bronx buildings without reasonable suspicion. Manhattan Judge Shira Scheindlin said the practice of stopping people suspected of trespassing outside private buildings in the Bronx was unconstitutional.
The decision appears to be one of the more significant federal rulings during the Bloomberg administration on the Police Department’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics, which the administration has credited with helping lower crime rates in the city.
The case was narrowly focused on police stops in front of the private residential buildings enrolled in the Trespass Affidavit Program in the Bronx. Under that program, which includes several thousand residential buildings, property managers have asked the police to patrol their buildings and to arrest trespassers.
But Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled Tuesday that the Police Department was routinely stopping people outside such buildings without reasonable suspicion that they were trespassing.
“While it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the N.Y.P.D. has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops outside TAP buildings in the Bronx,” Judge Scheindlin ruled.
“For those of us who do not fear being stopped as we approach or leave our own homes or those of our friends and families, it is difficult to believe that residents of one of our boroughs live under such a threat. In light of the evidence presented at the hearing, however, I am compelled to conclude that this is the case,” Judge Scheindlin went on to say.
Lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who previously filed a federal class action lawsuit that accused the NYPD of racial profiling praised today’s decision.
“The stops held unconstitutional today - for alleged trespasses outside the plaintiffs’ own apartment buildings in the Bronx - are part of a pattern of unconstitutional NYPD stops in all boroughs that have disrupted the lives of New Yorkers, particularly Black and Latino New Yorkers, for over a decade,” said Vincent Warren, director of CCR said in a statement.
“By consolidating today’s case with the Center for Constitutional Rights’ class action stop-and-frisk lawsuit, Floyd et al. v. City of New York, et al., Judge Scheindlin has correctly recognized that the stops held unconstitutional today are part of a larger problem identified by Floyd,” added Warren.
You can read Judge Scheindlin’s full ruling below.