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End Stop and Frisk

Stop and Frisk Silent March down Fifth Avenue, from 110th to 78th Street. About 50,000 non-violent protestors stood together in silent protest against the NYPD’s “stop and frisk program”, which bears no resemblance to what People v. Debour 40 NY2d 210 (1976) envisioned for the Empire State. Perhaps the next step is to revisit that 1976 case, which New York chose to follow instead of the more lax “totality of the circumstances” federal standard under Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983). By doing so, New York specifically chose to give more protections to its citizenry, i.e., by putting more checks on the types of interactions police have with people on the street.

But the NYPD has taken the Debour standard and completely mutated it into something that bears no resemblance to the four step standard the court and its progeny articulated. As a former prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, I can’t tell you how many times the police had no idea the requisite suspicion for a stop AND a frisk, which requires separate, articulated suspicions. And, of course, those are only the cases that came to me . . . not the thousands of others that never made it that far. It’s a shame that our D.A.’s offices and our New York courts stand silent as the NYPD issues its “justice” in such a clearly disparate fashion. While the NYPD may clamor back and forth on the “intent” issue of their racial profiling, the “effects” of the racial disparity are simply undeniable — so much so that it establishes the NYPD’s intent to stop people based on a discriminatory purpose. It is an institutional problem, not just the actions of a few officers.

For a state that that takes pride in taking a strong view toward protecting citizen’s rights, it’s a shame that the people are forced to go to federal court for redress. The NYPD doesn’t do this without a lot of help. And for whatever reason, the “help” —  for example, the DA’s offices and the courts — are sickly silent.

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  1. June 18, 2012

    Great post!

  2. June 20, 2012

    We all are One!

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