Lawyers for New York City will be waging an uphill battle starting March 18 as they try to convince a federal judge, who has seemed skeptical so far, that the Police Department's stop-and-frisk anti-crime policies comport with the Fourth Amendment.
Plaintiffs challenging the policies have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the police target people for stops based on race, without the constitutionally mandated reasonable suspicion that the individual has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. Police must have reasonable suspicion a person is armed to frisk them.
The plaintiffs are not seeking money damages in Floyd v. City of New York, 08 civ. 01034. Instead, they are asking Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin (See Profile), who will conduct a bench trial that could last eight weeks, to find the city liable and ultimately appoint a monitor to oversee the NYPD's compliance with any remedial order.
The monitor would evaluate compliance with the court's remedieswhich plaintiffs say they hope would include working with policing and statistical experts to evaluate policies and practices relating to stop-and-frisk, including supervision, training and discipline, internal audits and civilian complaint investigations.
The monitor, who would be appointed to no less than five years or until Scheindlin determines there has been full compliance, would issue periodic reports analyzing data from the stop-and-frisk forms, called UF-250s, along with crime complaint data.
Plaintiffs lawyer Darius Charney of the Center for Constitutional Rights said in an interview that the plaintiffs have eschewed pursuit of a preliminary injunction .
"We want a permanent injunctionthis is a huge problem that has been plaguing this city for a number of years," Charney said. "There needs to be a lot of thought and a complete record to craft a meaningful remedy. We didn't want to rush and get a narrow, insufficient remedy."
The problem for the defendants, who want to stave off any outside interference with NYPD operations, is that they must convince a judge who already has strongly criticized the department in pretrial motions granting the plaintiffs class certification and denying the city summary judgment.
The number of stops by the police climbed steadily after Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, climbing to a peak of 685,724 in 2011 from 97,296, before dropping last year to 533,042.
About 4.4 million of the encounters, or 88 percent, did not result in an arrest or summons. More than 86 percent of people stopped were black or Latino.