Last year there were 685,724 stop-and-frisk encounters by the NYPD, the highest total in 10 years. This year, during the first three months of 2012, officers have stopped people on the streets more than 200,000 times, putting the stops on course to break last year’s record.
The stop-and-frisk tactic is a controversial duality; the police department’s right to stop-and-frisk based on their “reasonable suspicion,” and their duty to honor that person’s Constitutional Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. Racial profiling is also very suspect in the police department’s use of the tactic. This aggressive tactic has been vigorously used by the police in street stops and in privately owned housing.
The NYPD has routinely justified the increase in stop-and-frisk stops, an aggressive police policy known as “Stop, Question, Frisk,” as attributing to the city’s decline in homicides, and setting course for a new low in annual homicides; but not without controversy and several legal challenges.
In March, 2012, a civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit seeking class-action status against the police and the New York City Housing Authority claiming that public-housing residents and their visitors are subject to baseless trespassing arrests. Police were given permission to enter by landlords as part of the “Clean Halls” program, implemented as a crime-fighting tool during the 1990s. The law suit alleges that police have routinely arrested people on criminal-trespass charges with no justification, and officers have extended the practice to the sidewalks of the buildings, creating what some residents describe as a “police state.”
Another lawsuit, filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, alleges that residents and their guests are subject to arbitrary enforcement practices that violate anti-discrimination provisions of the Federal Fair Housing Act, as well as their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
A barrier is now in place on the course to breaking records. On May 16, 2012, a New York federal judge has elevated a lawsuit, which accuses officers of using race as a factor in the stop-and frisk stops, to class-action status. This court decision now opens the door for possible legal recourse for hundreds of thousands of people that were subjected to the vigorous stop-and frisk practice.
Protecting your Constitutional Fourth Amendment rights has been legally acknowledged in Federal court. If you believe you were subject of an unconstitutional stop-and-frisk, an experienced civil rights attorney can advise you of your rights and possible legal resources now available under the class action lawsuit.