US federal judge has ruled that part of New York Police Department’s (NYPD) controversial stop-and-frisk practice is unconstitutional, a move that may widely affect the city’s often discriminatory use of the invasive police stops as a crime-fighting measure.
The decision, passed down on Tuesday, represents the first federal ruling, determining that the intrusive police procedure violates the “Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure,” The New York Times reported Wednesday.
According to the report, the ruling focused on police stops carried out in front of several thousand private residential buildings in the Bronx neighborhood that enrolled in the so-called Trespass Affidavit Program (TAP). Property managers in the program have asked the NYPD to patrol their buildings and apprehend trespassers.
However, Manhattan Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that police officers were regularly stopping individuals outside the 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 NYPD has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops outside TAP buildings in the Bronx,” Judge Scheindlin further ruled.
The ruling followed a seven-day hearing in October during which nine African American and Latino residents testified about being stopped and harassed by police while leaving their homes or visiting friends and relatives as guests.
The main criticism in the judge’s decision is pointed at NYPD’s training program for its police officers, suggesting that it evades the Fourth Amendment. She further found that the evidence in the case “strengthens the conclusion that the NYPD’s inaccurate training has taught officers the following lesson: Stop and question first, develop reasonable suspicion later.”
In the ruling, the report adds, the judge also ordered the police “to cease performing trespass stops” outside the private buildings in the program unless officers have reasonable suspicion, a legal standard that requires police officers to act on more than just an instinct.
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