Lewis Diuguid

August 13, 2013

Stop-and-frisk policy in New York unconstitutional, judge rules

A disproportionate number of minorities have been targeted by New York’s stop-and-frisk policy. Blacks and Latinos also have been hurt by other aspects of the criminal justice system, which Attorney General Eric Holder proposes to change nationally.

A federal judge was right to deem New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional and to appoint a federal monitor to oversee the program.

The policy unfairly singles out black and Hispanic men. Judge Shira Scheindlin said police have been making “unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks” based on race, the New York Daily News reports.

Police made 4.4 million stops between 2004 and 2012, and frisked more than 2 million people. “In 98.5 percent of the 2.3 million frisks, no weapon was found,” the judge wrote.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposes the judge’s ruling, saying the program has saved lives.

But the judge’s action tracks well with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s plan to stop charging low-level nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that result in harsh mandatory sentences. The current system disproportionately hurts people of color, resulting in more incarceration and longer sentences.

Reducing needless incarceration appears to be the goal in New York and nationally.

Damon Daniel, Kansas City area regional organizing director of Communities Creating Opportunity, in a prepared release applauded Holder’s announcement.

“A nation and a state that invests more in punishment than opportunity has lost touch with its moral calling,” Daniel said. “Our current system of mass criminalization and mass incarceration is tearing our community apart. Spending millions to lock people away from families while cutting funding for programs that protect them from desperation is backward and cruel — it does nothing to break the cycle and only increases misery in Kansas City.

“(Holder’s) decision makes economic sense and is the moral direction to go.”

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