Constitutional Challenges

Whether or not programs like New York's Stop-Question,-and-Frisk (SQF) are within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution is the primary challenge facing such programs. Similar programs, that have faced similar challenges and criticisms, exist in Newark, Philadelphia, and other cities. These challenges, epitomized through the high-profile and ongoing Floyd, et al. v. City of New York federal case, focus on the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment guarantees, in part, protection of the person "against unreasonable searches and seizures." Opponents of SQF programs claim that such programs directly violate [PDF] this guarantee by permitting warrantless searches of private citizens without the necessary just cause. Proponents of these programs emphasize the question phase as building just cause. In this approach, the officers are not just stopping and frisking individuals; they are questioning them in order to determine whether or not frisking is an appropriate response. Additionally, the necessity of these programs for proper policing in large cities is highlighted as outweighing any potential liberty interest.

Fourteenth Amendment - Equal Protection

The Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause states, in part, "nor [shall any State] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Opponents of SQF programs claim that these programs permit and encourage racial profiling and thus are unconstitutional. Since individuals who appear to be Hispanic or black are far more likely to be stopped, this argument suggests that this leads to an intrinsic issue of equal protection. Essentially, opponents claim that the law is not applied equally, regardless of race, and instead leads to targeting of minority races and low income individuals. Proponents of the programs argue that there is no inherent racial bias to the program and, in the event that any officer is targeting minorities, that individual officer is misusing the program. Rather, they argue that the program is intended to affect persons of all races equally and any situations in which it does not is anomalous and can be rectified through proper training.

 

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