“Those who are routinely subjected to stops are overwhelmingly people of color, and they are justifiably troubled to be singled out when many of them have done nothing to attract unwanted attention.”
These are the words of Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, who ruled yesterday in Floyd v. City of New York that the New York Police Department’s practice of stop-and-frisk violates the constitutional rights of New Yorkers.
These remarks just as easily could have come from Kasiem Walters, a young man subjected to stop-and-frisk eight times, starting when he was only 13. For youth like Walters, the Floyd ruling was a major victory.
The historic ruling confirms what Walters and others across New York City have been expressing for months: stop-and-frisk harasses and humiliates New Yorkers who are doing nothing wrong, and it violates their rights.
The court did not ask the NYPD to abandon its proactive policing practices, but instead to work harder to protect “the constitutional rights of the people the NYPD serves.” The judge stressed that she did not seek to analyze the effectiveness of the NYPD policy but to uphold the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and the 14th Amendment’s prohibition of unequal treatment based upon race.
The judge noted that reforming stop-and-frisk need not harm law enforcement goals. The NYPD has recently reduced the number of stops without a rise in crime.
The court ordered a set of immediate reforms to NYPD’s policies and practices, which will be overseen by an independent monitor. These reforms include revisions to policies and training material related to stop-and-frisk and changes to supervision, monitoring, and disciplinary procedures for officers. Later, a court-appointed facilitator will oversee a more comprehensive set of reforms.
Citing best practices in the Oakland and Philadelphia police departments, the court ordered the NYPD to revise its "stop form" to require officers to include a narrative portion explaining why a stop, frisk, or search was performed. No such explanation is currently required in New York City. Officers only check boxes, thus, according to the court, “facilitating post-hoc justifications for stops where none may have existed at the time of the stop.”
The court also ordered the NYPD to institute a pilot program using body cameras. Officers on patrol will be required to wear the body cameras for a trial period in one precinct per borough. According to the court, these video recordings “will diminish the sense on the part of those who file complaints that it is their word against the police, and that the authorities are more likely to believe the police.”
In recognition of the important role community members play in effective and constitutional proactive policing, the court has required that community members be at the table during the reform process.
“I think people shouldn’t have to live in fear,” said Walters. “The point of police is not to instill fear, but to protect people.”
Instead of instilling fear, the NYPD should institute real solutions that reduce gun violence and provide community safety by fostering a productive relationship between communities and police.
Help us keep the momentum to end discriminatory policing. Watch and share the video of Kasiem Walters’s story.