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A federal judge on Wednesday granted class-action status to a lawsuit challenging the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics, saying she was disturbed by the city’s “deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.”
The decision by the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, of Federal District Court, provides possible legal recourse for hundreds of thousands of people who have been caught up in the department’s increasingly vigorous stop-and-frisk practice, which critics say unjustly ensnares blacks and Latinos, who generally represent more than 85 percent of those stopped by the police. Their combined population makes up a smaller share of the city’s racial composition, however. Critics also point out that the number of people arrested or issued summonses hovers around 10 percent of the stops — suggesting that a majority of individuals stopped have done nothing wrong.
Over the weekend, the police disclosed that they had made more than 200,000 such stops in the first three months of 2012, placing them on course for the largest number of annual stops in the 10 years the department has been measuring them.
In granting class-action status to the case, which was filed in January 2008 by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of four plaintiffs, the judge wrote that, “The vast majority of New Yorkers who are unlawfully stopped will never bring suit to vindicate their rights.”
Judge Scheindlin said the city’s attitude was “cavalier,” and added that “suspicionless stops should never occur.”
Despite the judge’s ruling and her pointed language, the city is unlikely to change its course. Asked about the decision at a news conference at Police Headquarters, Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner, would say only, “It is what it is.”
Read more: The New York Times