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Look and Listen: Issues With Stop-and-Frisk Policy in New York City

New York City has an aggressive stop-and-frisk policy that allows city officers to stop anyone, anywhere and for any reason. This policy has been hotly debated in recent months. Mayor Bloomberg and the law enforcement community defend the practice, while victims and civil rights groups oppose it as a violation of people’s constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Judges have also entered the debate as stop-and-frisks are contested and appealed by victims, particularly people who are black or Latino.

Stop-and-Frisk Policy

Dating back to the 1990s, the stop-and-frisk program in New York City, which is concentrated in high-crime areas, allows police to stop, question and frisk anyone for any reason. According to New York City Mayor Bloomberg, the stop-and-frisk policy “saves lives.” Critics of the practice, however, claim the few number of arrests coming out of the hundreds of thousands of stop-and-frisks each year have the high price of police intrusion. While the stop-and-frisk debate continues to rage, innocent people are still being stopped.

New York Stop-and-Frisk Numbers

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), there were 685,724 stop-and-frisks performed in New York City last year alone. This number is significantly greater than the 97,296 people who were stopped in 2002. The percentage of stopped people found innocent has remained fairly constant, fluctuating between 82 and 90 percent over the last decade. What has also been consistently shocking are the percentages of blacks and Latinos stopped each year, which has hovered at around 85 percent – even though these groups only make up 51 percent of the city’s total population, according to a recent Reuters article.

In addition to the obvious racial inequalities among who is typically stopped and frisked, the stop-and-frisk practice may also be unconstitutional and violate privacy and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. New York federal and appellate judges have picked up on these infringements, recently granting class-action status to a group of stop-and-frisk victims suing the city in civil court and overturning weapons convictions for two men found with weapons after being stopped and frisked.

Look and Listen

Now, many are asking that lawmakers and law enforcement officials look again at this practice and listen to the people who are most impacted by it. The stop-and-frisk practice as it currently exists is too common, invasive and possibly racially unfair.

If you were recently submitted to a stop-and-frisk in New York City, you may have concerns about whether your rights were violated. For more information, contact a New York City attorney with experience in investigating and litigating civil rights violations like false arrest and false imprisonment, which may have occurred during or after a stop-and-frisk event.

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