Housing Piece of Stop and Frisk Deemed Unconstitutional!

Photo: NY Daily News
Photo: NY Daily News

On January 9th NYC witnessed a historic blow to its Stop and Frisk Program.  A federal judge ruled that “Operation Clean Halls” – the aspect of the Stop and Frisk program which operates in private apartment buildings – is unconstitutional.  We’ve written about the racist nature of Operation Clean Halls on our blog several times.  There has been testimony after testimony after testimony of folks – almost exclusively people of color – being harassed or worse by police in or just outside of their own apartment buildings. Wednesday’s ruling is specific to buildings in the Operation Clean Halls program in the Bronx, but community activists and lawyers hope it to be extended city-wide.

NPR’s Michel Martin spoke to John Jay professor Gloria J. Browne-Marshall about the ruling.  Browne- Marshall explains the legal backing behind this ruling:

Under Terry versus Ohio in 1968, police are given the authority to conduct stops-and-frisks if there is imminent danger to the officer or to the public. Here, now we’ve drifted down to a level of – we’re no longer looking for guns. We’re no longer looking at imminent danger. We’re just saying, is this person loitering in a private facility? And, to the point where – are they loitering outside? Loitering and being arrested for stop-and-frisk is not what Terry versus Ohio allowed and so that issue right there raises it to the level of an unconstitutional stop, detaining of the person and the actual touching of the person by a police department.

Not only are people being stopped in buildings without any signs of immediate danger, but the people who are stopped are disproportionately people of color; 84% of all stops are men and women of color.  If this doesn’t enlighten us about the racist nature of this program, I don’t know what could.

NYC’s Stop and Frisk program is being attacked on several legal levels.  On December 20th an appellate state court ruled that the city is not legally allowed to keep their online database of over 360,000 people who were stopped and frisked by the NYPD.  The fact that the records are being stored electronically violates NYPD’s need to seal their records.  “‘This is a victory for privacy and the rule of law,’ said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the case. ‘It pulls the plug on the NYPD sprawling electronic database of innocent black and Latino New Yorkers.’”

One other legal blow that Stop and Frisk and the  NYPD face is a national lawsuit filed (again) by NYCLU which challenges the arrest of a Brooklyn woman who recorded a Stop and Frisk incident outside her house.  NYCLU’s press release reports:

[Hadiyah Charles ] used her smartphone to record two NYPD officers as they questioned and frisked three black youth whom had been innocently fixing a bicycle down the street from her Bedford-Stuyvesant home. The police officers tried to prevent Ms. Charles from filming the encounter by shoving her, handcuffing her, arresting her, and holding her in a jail cell for 90 minutes.

This is clearly problematic.  The more we can hold NYPD accountable for their harassment of New Yorkers, especially black and brown youth, the better. NYCLU is actually promoting recording incidents of Stop and Frisk.  They have created a smartphone app meant for recording incidents, and as a know-your-rights tool.  We need to continue fighting in the courts and in the streets until the entire Stop and Frisk program is dismantled!

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