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In a landmark ruling today, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, United States District Court Judge of the Southern District of New York, ruled that the New York Police Department for years has violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York. Stop & Frisk was a controversial measure utilized by the NYPD to stop innocent individuals, with or without objective reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. Officers would stop persons they “suspected” of committing a crime, or planning to commit a crime, and frisk these individuals for drugs, contraband or weapons.

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The majority of the persons stopped and frisked were young male minorities. While New York City and its officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, continued to insist that this act taken by the NYPD was beneficial in decreasing crime rates, many Civil Rights activists and residents have been arguing for years that this act violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Additionally, according the ruling, Stop-And-Frisk, as practiced by the NYPD, also violated provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment which provides for equal protection of all.

The Judge offered several remedies in her opinion to ensure that the practice no longer violates the civil rights of young minorities in New York.

What Does This Mean?:

According to the ruling, Judge Scheindlin found that New York City, “adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data.”

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1, of the Constitution also states:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Though the Supreme Court had long ago ruled that Stop & Frisks were permitted under certain conditions, Judge Scheindlin also stated that she was “not ordering an end to the practice of stop-and-frisks. The purpose of the remedies addressed in this opinion is to ensure that the practice is carried out in a manner that protects the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much needed police protection.”

According to the New York Times, Some of the suggested remedies within the ruling include:

1) Designation of an outside lawyer, Peter L. Zimroth, to monitor the NYPD’s compliance with the U.S. Constitution;

2) A pilot program in which officers in at least 5 precincts across the city will wear body-worn cameras in an effort to record street violations; and

3) A “Joint Remedial Process” (i.e. – community meetings to solicit public input on how to reform stop-and-frisk)

How Does This Affect You? :

As a citizen of the United States, you have very specific civil rights. As addressed within today’s ruling, these rights include the right to not be unlawfully seized and searched and also the right to equal protection of laws. I am certain many of us have witnessed, and/or have been subjected to stop-and-frisks throughout the years. The unfortunate aspect of this is the entire practice, though extremely commonplace in minority neighborhoods, has been going on for years and many of us have become immune to these violations committed upon us and/or our family and neighbors.

With today’s ruling, the entire practice, as previously executed by the NYPD, is under an extreme microscope to be to totally reformed so young minorities are no longer subjected to unlawful searches and seizures. Know your rights and demand better from those who are here to “protect” us. You may also be able to get involved by staying abreast of any of the “Joint Remedial Processes” that will hopefully spring up after today’s ruling.

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Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.

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