New York Police Stop Individuals Without Suspicion of Criminal Activity Under “Operation Clean Halls”

The New York City Department started an “Operation Clean Halls” program “aimed at preventing illegal activity at buildings in high-crime areas.”  However, instead of applying the constitutional restrictions of “stop and frisk” laws, the New York police apparently regularly stopped individuals outside the buildings without “reasonable suspicion” that they were involved in criminal activity.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin claims that plaintiffs against the New York City Department’s stop and frisk program “had shown a clear likelihood of proving the city had shown deliberate indifference toward a widespread practice of unconstitutional trespass stops by police outside the buildings.”  According to the NYtimes, “officers were routinely stopping people outside the buildings without reasonable suspicion that they were trespassing.”

Remedial Proposals By U.S. District Judge

Judge Scheindlin ordered the following remedial proposals to “Operation Clean Halls”:

  • The New York City Police Department shall "develop and adopt a written policy describing limited circumstances when a person on a suspicion of trespass can be stopped."
  • The New York City Police Department shall "revise officers training materials."
  • The New York City Police Department shall "alter some of the training literature and videos used to teach officers how to conduct lawful stops."

What are the Constitutional Limitations to Stop & Frisk?

Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), is a Landmark Supreme Court case, which decided the constitutionality of a “Stop & Frisk.”  Under the ruling, a police officer may stop a person without "probable cause" for arrest if the police officer has "reasonable suspicion" that the defendant is engaging in criminal activity.  Furthermore, if the officer reasonably believes that the defendant is armed and dangerous, they may conduct a protective frisk.

What do you think?  Should police officers be able to stop an individual who merely enters or exits a building without acting suspiciously?