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A federal judge ruled that stop-and-frisk practices in the Bronx are unconstitutional Tuesday (Jan. 8). The New York Police Department introduced the policy allotting them the right to search people deemed suspicious, a move which has been met with opposition due to potential racial profiling.

Known as “Operation Clean Halls” the Bronx program is centered around thwarting illegal activity, with NYPD officers stopping people as they entered or excited buildings.

Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, of the Manhattan Federal District Court, found that officers repeatedly stopped people outside buildings without any valid reason for suspicion. “While it may be difficult to say where, precisely to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and that NYPD has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops outside TAP [Trespass Affidavit Program] buildings in the Bronx,” Scheindlin ruled.

Although Scheindlin was not ordering that the program be abolished, her decision marks the first federal ruling on the practice.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly responded to the ruling calling it “unnecessary,” as it “interferes with the department’s efforts to use all of the crime-fighting tools necessary to keep Clean Halls buildings safe and secure.”

The department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne said that program resulted in several arrests for illegal guns, but executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Donna Liberman begged to differ. Liberman noted the ruling as a huge step on the road to “dismantling the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk regime.”

Scheindlin said that she will hold a hearing to brainstorm potential alternatives to the controversy brought on by the policy. Among them, includes possibly requiring the NYPD to create a written policy that specifies the “limited circumstances” in which it’s “legally permissible” to stop a person at a TAP building.

Photo: AP