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Inviting Murder: Ominous Stop-and-Frisk Ruling

January 10, 2013

By Heather Mac Donald

Ominous stop-and-frisk ruling

New York City last year saw its lowest number of homicides in 50 years. Enjoy it while it lasts — because federal Judge Shira Scheindlin is on her way to decimating one of the NYPD’s most critical crime-fighting tools.

On Tuesday, Scheindlin issued a preliminary injunction against the department, holding that its officers were systematically making unconstitutional trespass stops in The Bronx. And that’s just the first of a trio of stop-and-frisk lawsuits she’s hearing against the NYPD, all brought by anti-police advocacy groups and elite law firms.

The Bronx trespass case, litigated by the New York Civil Liberties Union and Shearman & Sterling, was the least sweeping of the three suits — yet the ruling was, as the NYCLU’s Donna Lieberman triumphantly notes, "a major step toward dismantling the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk regime."

Sadly, she’s right. Tuesday’s decision makes clear that Scheindlin will rule against the city in every stop-and-frisk case she hears.

The judge prefaced her opinion with this claim: "For those of us who do not fear being stopped as we approach or leave our own homes or those of our friends and families, it is difficult to believe that residents of one of our boroughs live under such a threat."

It would have been more accurate to say: For those of us who live in doormen buildings in safe neighborhoods, it is difficult to believe that residents of one of our boroughs still fear going to their lobbies to pick up their mail because of the drug-dealing trespassers they might encounter there.

The NYPD instituted the Trespass Affidavit Program (or TAP) to provide the same security to poor, law-abiding residents in high-crime communities as the wealthy take for granted in theirs. TAP authorizes officers to patrol in and around private buildings (whose owners request it) to look for drug dealers, trespassers and other criminals.

Eliminating trespass is key to bringing safety to low-income buildings, since a high portion of indoor crime is committed by nonresidents. And being able to question individuals about suspicious behavior (whether trespass or other violations) is essential to preventing and deterring crime.

The advocates in Tuesday’s case claimed that officers routinely question individuals about trespass outside Bronx TAP buildings without legal basis. The court agreed — by accepting every element of the NYCLU’s arguments, no matter how weak. Scheindlin credited all of the plaintiffs’ vague and sometimes contradictory testimony about their alleged stops, and none of the officers’ rebutting testimony.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/inviting_murder_8ExwDoYyz2MlVPfXm0RNYO

 

 
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