Panelists review the legal and policy issues surrounding "stop and frisk"

The Dwight D. Opperman Institute of Judicial Administration (IJA), the Law School’s principal outreach to federal and state judges, has inaugurated the IJA Public Policy Forum, a biannual program addressing issues dealing with the administration of justice.

Samuel Estreicher moderated.

On Thursday, October 10, Samuel Estreicher, Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law at NYU Law, moderated the first such panel addressing the legal and policy issues surrounding “stop and frisk,” a practice used by police departments to identify suspects. Stop and frisk has come under fire for what many deem to be its unfair targeting of blacks and Latinos.

150 students and alumni and friends of NYU Law attended.

The panel featured Darius Charney, a senior staff attorney in the Racial Justice/Government Misconduct Docket of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Celeste Koeleveld, the Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel for Public Safety at the New York City Law Department; Nicola Persico, Professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management; Kent Greenawalt, a professor at Columbia Law School; S. Andrew Schaffer, an adjunct professor at NYU Law and former general counsel for the New York Police Department (NYPD); and Stephen Schulhofer, Robert B. McKay Professor of Law at NYU Law.

Charney and Koeleveld are lead attorney for the opposing sides in Floyd v. City of New York, a federal class action lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices.

An important issue explored was the practical usefulness of stop and frisk versus its potentially negative repercussions in the larger community. Greenawalt stated that because of the practice’s possibly “humiliating” effects, “it is best not to take race into account.” Schulhofer argued that the police have a “moral obligation” to consider the effect stop and frisk has on the trust of the community.

Koeleveld and Schaffer pointed out that race is taken into account only in the limited sense that the police are working on concrete information about criminal activity that involves individuals of a particular race. Moreover, they insisted, the statistics do not show a difference in stop and frisk rates when black and Hispanic police are involved as opposed to white police officers.

Charney disputed the crime-deterrent effects of stop and frisk, stating that certain studies show that stop and frisk has little effect, although it can have a deleterious impact when a community feels disrespected. Those negative feelings can in fact lead to a rise in unlawful behavior.

On August 12, 2013, a federal judge found the NYPD liable for racial profiling and unconstitutional stop and frisks. On October 31, 2013, the Second Circuit stayed the district court’s orders in the Floyd case.

Posted on November 8, 2013