08/20/13 Stop and Frisk


[One thing seems apparent after listening to the various cable news talking heads.  Not a single one has read U.S. Judge Shira Scheindlin’s 200-page ruling that New York’€™s controversial “stop and frisk” program is indeed unconstitutional.]

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg argues his controversial “stop-and-frisk”€ program should be kept even though it’€™s been ruled unconstitutional.
Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin [nominated to the bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton] goes into great detail in her 200-page opinion.  Nineteen stop-and-frisk incidents were examined.  Fourteen were found to be unconstitutional. 

Here’s just one.

Leroy Downs is a black man in his 30s. Two plainclothes officers exited their car, yelled an obscenity at Downs, and pushed him up against a fence. They frisked him.  Emptied his pockets.  And searched his wallet.  Finding nothing, they left.

Leroy Downs was standing in front of his own home.

Police officers may stop someone in the commission of crime.  The Supreme Court has also ruled someone may be stopped if there’s probable cause.  That is, “reasonable suspicion supported by … facts that criminal activity ‘€˜may be afoot.'”

There wasn’t any reasonable suspicion in the case of Leroy Downs.

Only in TV shows may cops stop someone based on a hunch. Or intuition.  In real life: No.

Here are the facts:

In 8 years more than 4.4 million stops were made.
No weapons were found in 99.2% of the stops.

In hundreds of thousands of stops police admit there was no reasonable suspicion.  In others, they reported the suspicion as “€œfurtive moments”€ or similar bogus claims.

[Judge Scheindlin made the following observation regarding the NYPD’s understanding of the term “furtive movements.”

[Two officers testified to their understanding of the term “furtive movements.” One explained that “furtive movement is a very broad concept,” and could include a person “changing direction,” “walking in a certain way,” “[a]cting a little suspicious,” “making a  movement that is not regular,” being “very fidgety,” “going in and out of his pocket,” “going in and out of a location,” “looking back and forth constantly,” “looking over their shoulder,” “adjusting their hip or their belt,” “moving in and out of a car too quickly,” “[t]urning a part of their body away from you,” “[g]rabbing at a certain pocket or something at their waist,” “getting a little nervous, maybe shaking,” and “stutter[ing].” Another officer explained that “usually” a furtive movement is someone “hanging out in front of [a] building, sitting on the benches or something like that” and then making a “quick movement,” such as “bending down and quickly standing back up,” “going inside the lobby… and then quickly coming back out,” or “all of a sudden becom[ing] very nervous, very aware.” If officers believe that the behavior described above constitutes furtive movement that justifies a stop, then it is no surprise that stops so rarely produce evidence of criminal activity.]

There are only two other places where “€œstop-and-frisk”€ programs were used routinely.  The Soviet Union.  And East Germany.

Judge Scheindlin got this one right. 

Her ruling is posted on Behind the Headlines dot net.

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