Drawing the Line: Wherever It Is, Irate Judge Rules Stop-and-Frisk Crosses It

Abby Zimet

In a win for civil liberties and a blow to mindless racist harassment, a federal judge has ordered the NYPD to halt stop-and-frisk actions outside thousands of Bronx apartment buildings as part of its “Clean Halls” program, ruling that officers have shown “deliberate indifference” to the unconstitutionality of the stops. A key part of stop-and-frisk ostensibly designed as a way to crack down on gangs and drug dealers, Operation Clean Halls has become a way to harass mostly black and poor residents, their kids and their dinner guests, critics say. Last year, police using an exceptionally broad and likely illegal  standard of “reasonable suspicion” stopped over 684,330 people - a ten-year high and 600% increase - with the vast majority black or Latino males supposedly guilty of “furtive movement” and other questionable crimes, like having small amounts of pot. No more, said U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin.

“While it may be difficult to say when precisely to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the NYPD has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops outside buildings,” Scheindlin ruled. “For those of us who do not fear being stopped as we approach or leave our own homes or those of our friends and family, it is difficult to believe that residents of one of our boroughs live under such a threat.”

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