The NYPD’s stop and frisk policy is being challenged in federal court. Attorneys for the Center for Constitutional Rights contend that the practice is unconstitutional and has targeted minorities.
The trial, which begins today, is expected to take over a month. Over 100 witnesses and experts, including numerous people who claim they were wrongfully stopped, are expected to testify.
The stop and frisk policy allows suspects to be stopped and searched by officers without a warrant. The practice became widespread in the 1990s as former Mayor Rudy Giuliani sought to decrease crime rates in New York City.
The policy is based on the concept that addressing crime at the street level, before it occurs, will prevent more violent or deadly situations in the future.
Officials with the New York Police Department have stated that the practice is essential to fighting crime in New York City. The NYPD has credited the policy with a notable decrease in crime rates.
Indeed, as reported by ABC News, crime rates in New York City have decreased steadily since the policy’s inception. Statistical data shows that 2012 saw the lowest murder rate since the 1960s
Critics of the stop and frisk policy contend that the data does not prove anything. They point out that there is no proven relationship between the policy and decreased crime. Furthermore, they argue that the policy uses racial profiling, which is unconstitutional. The New York Civil Liberties Union cites data that suggests more than 50 percent of those stopped and frisked where black. Only 10 percent of those stopped and frisked were white.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly defended the policy last week in front of City Council. Kelly stressed that the policy is an effort to keep illegal guns off the streets. As reported by the New York Times, the meeting became heated as several residents discussed personal encounters with the NYPD under the policy. Kelly argued that the policy continues to decrease crime.
Opponents feel the policy has caused more harm than good. Their class-action lawsuit, challenging NYPD’s stop and frisk policy will begin today. The federal court will be left to decided whether the policy violates constitutional rights.
[Image via Wikimedia]