NYPD "Stop and Frisk" Leads to Unconstitutional Stops: Study

By Jonathan Eiseman
|  Wednesday, Oct 27, 2010  |  Updated 1:30 PM EDT
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NYPD "Stop and Frisk" Leads to Unconstitutional Stops: Study

Golston-Green says her NYPD boss "made it impossible for my dream to continue."

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The NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy, which allows police officers to stop people on the street and frisk them based solely on a police officer’s suspicions, has resulted in the illegal stopping and questioning of tens of thousands of people, a new study finds.

The study found that in 30 percent of stops, officers did not have enough reasonable suspicion to constitutionally delay someone and failed to include the details on required police forms that would show whether or not the stops were justified. It also showed that a disproportionate amount of stops were on minority suspects.

The study, which was conducted and paid for by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), is being used in a lawsuit by the group against the NYPD, alleging  that the “stop and frisk” method, a strategy that the police have used more frequently over the years, is the basis for a widespread pattern of unconstitutional stops and racial profiling.

Sunita Patel, a staff attorney for the CCR, said that the study confirms the allegations that were made in the lawsuit. “The study shows that the stop and frisk violates both the 4th amendment against unlawful search and seizures and the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment,” said Patel. “Some of the statistics are very startling.”

The study, written by Prof. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia Law School, also showed that force was more likely to be used when a suspect was black or Hispanic, and that blacks were 31 percent more likely than whites to be arrested rather than issued a summons.

However, the NYPD stands by the policy, saying that the racial breakdown of stops is correlated to the racial breakdown of crime statistics. Chief of Police Ray Kelly dismissed the study, calling it, “an advocacy paper”, and saying to the New York Times, “We haven’t had a chance to look at it, but I wouldn’t take the position that this is an objective document.”

Patel acknowledges that it costs money for an expert to produce a report of that stature, but adds that Professor Fagan is, “highly renown” and that, “the issue of whether the report is legitimate or not is up to a trial judge.”

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