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One of the signature policies of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure (and more specifically, his police commissioner Ray Kelly) was dealt a crippling blow today, when a federal judge ruled that the controversial "stop and frisk" program is unconstitutional. The ruling, handed down by Judge Shira Scheindlin of Federal District Court for Manhattan, says "stop and frisk" violates both the Fourth and 14th Amendment, by subjecting innocent people to searches without any evidence or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. 

New York Police Department officers have carried out nearly 5 million such searches in the last decade, in a practice that overwhelming targets young black and Latino men. While police are allowed to stop and search people based on suspicious behavior, the judge ruled that New York's policy stretched the bounds of a legal stop. Paperwork filed by officers who are cataloging their stops showed that the number one reason given for stopping a suspect was "furtive movements," which is hardly the basis of criminal activity. Also, nearly 90 percent of those stopped were never arrested or even given a ticket.

Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg have vigorously defended the practice, claiming that it has reduced violent crime in the city, and only targets minorities because they are overwhelmingly both the victims and suspects in most of the city's violent crimes.

As a remedy for New York's violations, Judge Scheindlin appointed an independent lawyer to monitor the NYPD for future compliance with the law.Last week, the city settled a separate, but related lawsuit by agreeing to erase the names of those stopped, but not arrested, from an NYPD database. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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