The New York Personal Injury Blog

Could 'Stop and Frisk' Injunction Soon Go Beyond Public Housing?

Could it be? Could months and years of debating the merits of "stop and frisk" have finally led to the end of the constitutionally debatable NYPD policy? While today's decision by Judge Shira Scheindlin isn't the final word on the matter, an injunction, for reasons that follow, could potentially signal an end to the practice that began way back in 1964.

What is an injunction? It is a court order that prohibits a party from engaging in a certain activity. Specific to this case, it orders the NYPD to cease the stop and frisk practice in areas around public housing. This case, one of three related stop and frisk cases, deals with only the stops made in and around public housing as part of Operation Clean Halls (now known as "TAP" or the Trespass Affidavit Program).

Injunctions aren't granted lightly. The standard to get an injunction is set extremely high, as it bars one party from engaging in conduct without a full trial. The requesting party has to show that it is likely that they will succeed on the merits of the case -- before they've actually gone to trial and proven the case -- and that they will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted. It is, in essence, a trial before the trial.

There is no need to rehash the constitutional principles that call S&F/TAP into question. Those can be found here. The judge cited those same reasons, as well as the following five pieces of evidence in making her decision:

  • Bronx ADA Jeannette Rucker's testimony that many NYPD stops were made for no reason other than officers seeing people entering and exiting public housing;
  • The sample of "decline to prosecute" forms issued by the DA's office, which illustrated how often bogus charges were dropped by the district attorney's office;
  • The strength and consistency in the testimony of the eight plaintiffs and one witness, who all described being stopped near public housing buildings;
  • Dr. Jeffrey Fagan's analysis of the NYPD database of recorded stops, which showed the frequency of stops around public housing; and
  • NYPD training materials that misstate the constitutional minimum for making a legal stop.

The exhaustive 157-page opinion goes into each of these factors in great detail, leaving little doubt that the plaintiffs' case has merit -- so much merit, in fact, that it met the injunction standard.

What effect will this have on S&F as practiced throughout the city, and away from public housing? Though the injunction only stops the searches of people around public housing, the sheer weight of the evidence, much of which is applicable to all stop and frisks, indicate that a crucial milestone may indeed have been reached toward ending the controversial practice.

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