Turns out Trump and Holt are kinda right and kinda wrong.
For 2305 this illustrates the role of the federal courts in overseeing local policing, and it touches on the 4th Amendment, due process, equal protection, constitutional interpretation among other topics. For 2306, this helps us look ahead to criminal justices and the local use of police powers, in addition to federalism.
- Click here for the article.
As it turns out, Holt and Trump are both a little bit right and a little bit wrong. But Trump's more wrong than Holt.
Stop-and-frisk is the practice of a police officer stopping and questioning a person (the stop), then patting the person down for weapons (the frisk). Stops and frisks are legal, in New York and everywhere else.
In its decision in the 1968 case Terry vs. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that an officer can legally stop a person if the officer has reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. And if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that this person is armed, he or she can legally frisk the person for weapons. Because of that reasonable suspicion standard, the court said these stops would be consistent with the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.
A 2013 case before the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Floyd vs. City of New York, raised the issue of the constitutionality of New York City’s stop-and-frisk policies between 2004 and 2012.
Judge Shira Scheindlin found that New York City had been conductingunconstitutional stops and frisks on two grounds: Officers were stopping and frisking people without reasonable suspicion, in violation of Terry and the Fourth Amendment; and a disproportionate number of those stopped and frisked were minorities, in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
"Both statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites," Scheindlin wrote in her opinion. "For example, once a stop is made, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband."
So Holt was right to note that a court found New York City had an unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy because police had been disproportionately targeting black and Hispanic people.
But the Floyd case was specific to New York City’s particular way of conducting stops and frisks between 2004 and 2012. Scheindlin did not rule all stops and frisks unconstitutional, and her findings were consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Terry. Scheindlin ruled that New York City could continue to conduct stops and frisks as long as they made some changes.
"Stop-and-frisk was not outlawed," said Andrew Schaffer, former deputy commissioner for legal matters for the New York Police Department and an adjunct professor at New York University Law School. The ruling only sought to correct a supposed problem of officers making stops without a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and disproportionately stopping black and Hispanic people.
Schaffer added, "The Floyd decision in New York did not and could not overruleTerry."
"The judge made it very clear that she was not finding stop-and-frisk as a general practice unconstitutional," said David Rudovsky, a leading civil rights attorney and senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
So Holt’s claim — "stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York" — isn’t quite precise because it makes it seem as if the judge decided that all stops and frisks were unconstitutional in New York, when really her ruling said New York had to stop and frisk differently. New York cops still stop and frisk today.
But it also isn’t quite correct for Trump to call Holt’s claim "wrong" because that implies there was no finding of unconstitutionality in New York’s practices or that Scheindlin’s ruling was tossed out, when really it still stands.