New York City police stop-and-frisk practices unlawfully targeted people on the basis of their race, a federal judge ruled, ordering an independent monitor to oversee reforms of the practice.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan said in her decision today that she wasn't ordering a wholesale ban of the practice. She presided over a nine-week nonjury trial that ended May 20 in Manhattan federal court.
The lawsuit against New York City was filed in 2008 by four black men who alleged they had been stopped and questioned or frisked by police without reasonable suspicion, in violation of their constitutional rights.
Lead plaintiff David Floyd and the others claimed the city's police department has a widespread, illegal practice of stopping people in the street, disproportionately targeting blacks and Latinos. They accused the department of failing to properly train its officers and of imposing a quota system that encourages illegal stops.
The men said police have made more than 4 million stops and frisks in the past nine years. Of those stopped, at least 80 percent were black or Latino, according to court papers.
Police are generally barred by law from stopping, questioning or frisking — the act of patting a person down in a search for weapons or other contraband — someone in the street without some level of reasonable, individualized suspicion.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police must have such suspicion of crime to justify a stop. New York state appeals courts last year threw out at least two convictions of teenagers who were found with guns in stop-and-frisk searches.
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