New York City’s Finest, the men and women in blue, have stopped and frisked 4.4 million New Yorkers over the past 8 years. That’s more than half the City’s population of 8.2 million. This indiscriminate practice targeting minorities Hispanics and people of color was the subject of a federal civil rights complaint. On Monday a federal judge found this practice discriminatory and an unconstitutional abridgment of rights. She ordered sweeping reforms.
At issue during the two month long trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan was exactly how and why these stop and frisks took place. As in any trial the testimony of witnesses differed. The cops spun a tale of suspicious furtive behavior with guns and drugs readily apparent if not in plain view. The civilians countered that they were mere innocent passer byes on their legitimate way, albeit in high crime neighborhoods. He said, she said, who to believe?
The Court found stop and frisk an ineffective policing tool and basically pointless. The police department’s own statistics proved the point. “52% of all stops were followed by a protective frisk for weapons. A weapon was found after 1.5% of these frisks. In other words, in 98.5% of the 2.3 million frisks, no weapon was found” said the judge adding “In 9% of these searches, the felt object was in fact a weapon. 91% of the time, it was not.”