Class-Action Suit Challenges NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Program

The ruling allows all persons unlawfully stopped and frisked since January 2005 to be plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

By Jorge Rivas May 17, 2012

A federal judge on Wednesday granted class-action status to a lawsuit challenging the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) stop-and-frisk practices as unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. The ruling allows all persons unlawfully stopped and frisked since January 2005 to be plaintiffs in the lawsuit that could change the police department’s policies.

In 2011, stop-and-frisk data released to the City Council by the (NYPD) revealed a record 684,330 stops and nine out of ten persons stopped were not arrested, nor did they receive summonses. Eighty-seven percent of those stopped in 2011 were Black or Latino. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan said in a written ruling that there was "overwhelming evidence" that the centralized stop-and-frisk program has led to thousands of unlawful stops. [PDF

"The Court has rightly recognized that illegal stops-and-frisks are not limited to a few rogue police officers but are the product of a program designed at the highest level of the police department and affect hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of New Yorkers," Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) senior staff attorney Darius Charney said in a statement. "As a result of today’s ruling, all those for whom this practice is a daily reality will now have an opportunity to challenge it as a violation of their fundamental constitutional rights and to ask the Court to order real changes in NYPD stop-and-frisk policy," Charney went on to say.

The plaintiffs are represented by the CCR and the law firms of Beldock, Levine, and Hoffman and Covington & Burling, LLP. The 2003 lawsuit, Daniels, et al. v. City of New York, et al., brought on by CCR led to the NYPD collecting data on stop-and-frisk stops.

On Thursday–a day after the lawsuit was granted class-action status–NYPD Commisioner Raymond W. Kelly announced the department has plans to implement its own measures to curtail the number of "illegitimate" stops.