‘Stop and Frisk’ Practices in New York City Violate Constitutional Rights in Targeting Racial Minorities

The Haas Institute applauds Judge Scheindlin’s 193 page opinion and order on Tuesday holding that the New York City Police Department’s ‘stop and frisk’ practices are unconstitutional.  The opinion emphasizes the ways in which these practices target black and brown men in violation of not only the 4th amendment, but also the 14th amendment. We believe that this opinion sets the new legal standard for evaluating police practices with disparate impacts on racial minorities and shines light on the injustice of racial profiling, which unfairly and unconstitutionally discriminates against racial minorities. 

The opinion magnificently contests and rejects the assumption and stereotype that Black and Brown youth are more likely to be criminals. The Judge references President Obama’s recent remarks about his own experience with racial bias and the prevalence of unfair treatment of black men – who are often regarded as suspicious based solely on their skin color. Judge Scheindlin also cites Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow in support of her assertion that “targeting racially defined groups for stops — even when there is reasonable suspicion — perpetuates the stubborn racial disparities in our criminal justice system.”   Additionally, the Judge delves into the facts and closely considers social science evidence that demonstrates the discriminatory nature of New York City’s ‘stop and frisk’ practices and the police department’s deliberate indifference to the racially disparate impacts of the practice. The opinion explains that racial profiling is subject to the highest standard of judicial review, strict scrutiny – and thus would only be constitutional if it is necessary to serve a compelling state interest – and stop and frisk, as implemented by the NYCPD does not meet that standard. 

The ideas expressed on the Haas Institute blog are not necessarily those of UC Berkeley or the Division of Equity & Inclusion, where the Haas Institute website is hosted. They are not official and not of one mind. Thoughts here are those of individual authors. We are committed to academic freedom, free speech and civil liberties.