Litigation

In 1999, unarmed Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by the New York City Police Department's Street Crimes Unit. His death incited community outrage on the issue of policing and race. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a nonprofit legal organization devoted to defending constitutional rights, brought a suit against the City of New York in Daniels v. City of New York to question the constitutionality of the city's police practice of stop-and-frisk. Diallo was a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea who police shot 41 times after mistaking his gestured reach for identification as a reach for a gun. Many in the community felt Diallo's death highlighted the extent to which the policing powers of the NYPD, and its Street Crimes Unit in particular, were violating the US Constitution on grounds of racial discrimination. The stop-question-and-frisk practice was the most widespread violation alleged. The class-action was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York and alleged a violation of the US Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause stemming from racial and nationalist profiling of members of the class and a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection from search and seizure stemming from stop-and-frisk of individuals without reasonable cause. The case survived a motion to dismiss made by New York City, which alleged the plaintiffs lacked standing because they could not show they were in danger of suffering future injury at the hands of the program. After discovery, New York City settled the case with CCR in 2003 after gaining approval of District Judge Shira Scheindlin. The city agreed to set forth an anti-discrimination policy that comports with both the US Constitution, as well as the New York State Constitution, to audit the stop-question-and-frisk program to review the program's practice and effectiveness, to provide the results of the audits to CCR quarterly and to engage in public outreach.

Data from the quarterly audits showing that the number of stops-and-frisks had increased and violations of the Daniels settlement prompted CCR to file a new class-action suit in 2008: Floyd, et al. v. City of New York et al. This case alleged the same complaints as Daniels. Ninety percent of those stopped were Black or Latino despite this demographic only making up 52 percent of the city's population.

In August 2013, Judge Scheindlin found [PDF] the NYPD liable for unconstitutional stops and ordered reforms. From then until October 2013, the city, along with intervening police unions, filed appeals of the reform process in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, alleging that the reforms unfairly places blame on police officers rather than the administration. Through October and November of 2013, the court vacated the reform process and removed Judge Scheindlin but did not vacate the district court's rulings. On November 5, 2013, the city's new mayor-elect, Bill de Blasio vowed to drop the city's appeal. In November and December of 2013, the circuit court puts a hold on the unions' intervention while the city and CCR came to an agreement to drop the appeal and make reforms. In January 2014, the city moved to end its appeal and for the case to be remanded back to the district court for the reform process to move forward. On February 7, the unions motioned to intervene in the city's ending of appeal. he circuit court remanded the case back to the district court on February 21. On March 11, the plaintiffs filed an opposition to the unions' motion.

In August 2013, the New York City Council passed legislation aimed at addressing stop-question-and-frisk. The legislation broadened the definition of racial profiling and allows those who felt discriminated against to file suit against the NYPD. The mayor at the time, Michael Bloomberg, maintained his longtime support for stop-question-and-frisk and filed a lawsuit against the city council to have the law overturned. On March 5, 2014, Mayor de Blasio dropped the suit.

 

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