U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan ruled on Tuesday that a key part of the controversial NYPD Stop-and-Frisk tactic is unconstitutional.
The decision, Ligon v. the City of New York, was the result of a legal challenge by the New York Civil Liberties Union of the NYPD’s “Clean Halls” program which grants consent to police officers by landlords of private residential buildings to stop someone under a suspicion of tresspass.
NYCLU’s suit centered around the case of Jaenean Ligon of the Bronx, whose 17-year-old son was stopped without cause while on an errand to buy castup in 2011.
In a 157-page ruling, Scheindlin ordered NYPD to refrain from making any further trespass stops outside of privately owned buildings and set a Jan. 31 hearing to determine what other relief provisions should be granted.
"With today's ruling, the federal court has stated loudly and clearly that a major part of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program is unconstitutional and that the time has come for the courts to order a halt to illegal stops," said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The court’s decision requires NYPD officers create a formal policy specifying the limited circumstances in which it is legally permissible to stop a person outside a “clean halls” building on a suspicion of trespass.
"I thank Judge Scheindlin for standing up to the abuses of the stop, question and frisk tactic and standing up for the residents of the Bronx who have been unfairly targeted and unjustly arrested," said Councilman Jumaane Williams, D-Ditmas Park in a statement.
"As a former tenant organizer, I actually support the existence of programs like Clean Halls which promote a stronger relationship between communities and the police and make tenants feel safer," he continued. "However, because of the NYPD's overzealous behavior, trust has degraded to the point that it is difficult to discern worthwhile initiatives. I believe that this will improve the great work that most of New York's Finest already do every day, by revising training measures and better defining when it is proper to conduct a stop, question and frisk."
"This legal victory hopefully augers well for the battles to come. Ultimately, we must seek a complete end to the NYPD's current policy towards stop, question and frisk and pursue a public safety strategy that ensures better policing and safer streets for all," Williams noted.
Ligon vs. the City of New York is one of three lawsuits challenging the controversial policy, including a class action lawsuit, Floyd et al. v. City of New York, et al., led by the Center for Constitutional Rights.
“Today’s ruling confirms what hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers already know—that NYPD officers routinely stop New Yorkers without the reasonable suspicion required by the Fourth Amendment,” said Vincent Warren, executive director for Center for Constitutional Rights in an email statement.
“We look forward to working with the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Bronx Defenders and Latino Justice to craft meaningful and effective city-wide remedies to address these serious constitutional violations, hold the NYPD accountable for its abuses and make our city safe for all New Yorkers.”
“The dignity of low-income and minority New Yorkers has for too long been considered expendable in exchange for some unproven, unexamined theoretical degree of safety,” said Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James. “These practices will continue to undergo legal challenge.”