Police & You: Stop and Frisk Based on Race?

Police & You: Stop and Frisk Based on Race?

In this Police & You segment, we examine whether the NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Policy is Racially Driven.

The NYPD’s stop and frisk policy was recently challenged in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs argued that the police violated their constitutional rights by stopping them without legal authority to do so in violation of the Fourth Amendment and targeting them for stops due to their race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs further argued that the City’s stop and frisk policy must be reformed in order to comply with the limits set forth in the constitution.

First, while the Supreme Court has held that the Fourth Amendment permits police to “stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes,” the officer must have reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity ‘may be afoot’ in order to do so. Because reasonable suspicion is based on an objective standard, the subjective intentions or motivations of the officer conducting the stop is irrelevant. The test for whether a stop has taken place in the context of a police encounter is whether a reasonable person would have felt free to terminate the encounter. Second, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, all stops must be conducted in a racially neutral manner; therefore, the police cannot intentionally stop someone based on his or her race.

Following a nine-week bench trial, the court ultimately decided that the City’s policies and practices violated both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. And in a separate opinion, the court will order remedies, which include changes to NYPD’s policies, a joint-remedial process to consider further reforms, and the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee compliance with the remedies that are ordered.

In the context of the police & you, it is important to know your rights when the police stop you. If you or a loved one has been stopped and frisked by the police or arrested, contact an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney right away, regardless of whether you are in Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Monroe, Ann Arbor, or any other Michigan county.