Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Fourth Amendment lives in the Bronx!

For a while now, police in New York City have targeted particular buildings in high-crime neighborhoods in the Bronx. Police basically stop anyone they want to outside these buildings. The claim is that these buildings are subjected to lots of trespassing, so they stop people the police think might be trespassers. But really, they're looking for drug dealers, gang members, and your basic criminals. What it comes down to is they're stopping lots and lots of black men. Honestly, if these police saw me outside one of these buildings and approached me, it would be to make sure I was ok and offer me a ride home because I must be lost.

This stop and frisk program has been for years. As you might imagine, people like me decry the program as a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment. Law enforcement swears it's necessary to curb crime rates. At least 3 lawsuits are currently pending challenging the stops.

Yesterday in the first of these lawsuits, a Federal District Court Judge agreed with those of us who hate these stops and issued an injunction against these unjustifiable stops. I'm a tad curious what the enforcement mechanism and remedy for violations of the injunction would be. After all, the finding is that the vast majority of these stops are already a constitutional violation. (Something like 87% of these stops didn't even lead to an arrest, which suggests that police really don't have much cause for stopping these people. Of the other 13%, an awful lot of those cases get tossed out of court anyway.) So how does an injunction really change things since cops already shouldn't be stopping these people? I hope I'm just being too cynical here and that the NYPD really will respond to this injunction by suspending the program until there is a final ruling. (A final ruling that, I hope, will affirm this court's findings.)

The NYPD should stop this program. I don't care that they think they're trying to combat a serious crime problem. They don't get to just ignore the Fourth Amendment or suspend it in high crime areas. You can't just stop people who are walking down the street. Can't demand to see identification and expect explanations for people's comings and goings. Even in the worst neighborhoods of the Bronx.

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