Judge Shira Scheindlin of Federal District Court in New York upheld the bedrock principle of individual liberty on Monday when she ruled that the tactics underlying New York City’s stop-and-frisk program violated the constitutional rights of minority citizens. She found that the city had been “deliberately indifferent” to police officers illegally detaining and frisking minority residents on the streets over many years.
Judge Scheindlin was clearly speaking of Mayor Michael Bloomberg when she concluded: “The City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of singling out “the right people” is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution.”
The judge made clear that she was not striking down the program — which remains an important tool for law enforcement — but requiring the city to use that tool in a way that does not discriminate against African-Americans and Hispanics and that comports with constitutional guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure. Given the city’s refusal to alter its practices significantly, Judge Scheindlin had little choice but to appoint an outside monitor to oversee sweeping changes in how the New York Police Department trains its officers and carries out the stop-and-frisk policy. (New York Times