A recent U.S. District Court judge’s ruling has stated that New York’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” program violates citizens’ rights. The ruling also mandates for a new system of personal surveillance that will work in conjunction with the program in precincts around the city.
Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling effectively dismantles the decade-old program, which allows law enforcement agents to warrantlessly stop any civilian and search them for weapons or illegal substances. Scheindlin states that stop-and-frisk constitutes “indirect racial profiling,” and stands in direct violation of Fourth Amendment rights protecting all citizens from illegal search and seizure.
Scheindlin has tweaked the policy, requiring police officers to wear small lapel cameras, as well as receive additional training and enhanced supervision. A one-year pilot program is set to take effect in 4 precincts around the city.
Todd Morris, CEO of BrickHouse Security says that, while a mandate will help proliferate the use of bodyworn cameras, officers from around the country have already taken it upon themselves to enhance accountability when they’re on the job.
“We’ve sold thousands of cameras to police officers personally who are looking for a true account of what happens,” Morris says. “Any time that you’ve got visual verification and an indisputable record, it’s always good to eliminate any questions of doubt.”
This use of cameras goes both ways. In recent years there has been an explosion of viral videos of presumed police brutality, a concern that many officers are combatting by donning cameras of their own to keep their own record of any contentious interactions.
“Supporters of the cameras believe there’s a real benefit here,” reporter Nicole Johnson said in a recent segment for PIX11 News. “The footage could be used as evidence in court and the city would save money on fake lawsuits claiming police brutality.”
Statistically, the stop-and-frisk program has targeted black and hispanic citizens over 80% of the time from 2002 to 2012, with the total number of stops standing somewhere in the area of 4.4 million, according to a 200-page report filed by Dr. Jerry Fagan, a criminologist at Columbia Law School.
A pilot program for the new camera mandate will take place in precincts that have seen some of the highest percentages of stop-and-frisk cases. The 40th Precinct in the Bronx, 103rd in Queens, 75th in Brooklyn, 120th in Staten Island, and 23rd in East Harlem will all participate.
A similar program has already proven wildly successful in Rialto, Calif., where half of the officers in the department were fitted with bodyworn cameras, and the number of complaints against the department dropped by 88%.
While the ruling is a major victory for civil libertarians and minority leaders who feel the program unfairly targets blacks and hispanics, both New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Chief Ray Kelly have derided it and plan to appeal.
Watch the segment from PIX11 below: