Phillips & Associates

Racial Profiling

Civil Rights Attorneys for Residents of New York City

The use of racial stereotyping to conduct criminal investigations and arrests is humiliating and sometimes leads to unjustified arrest records. In particular, the law enforcement procedure of "stop and frisk" led to disproportionate arrests of blacks and Latinos in New York City. The Community Safety Act is a two-part piece of legislation that was passed to end this pattern and bring about substantive changes in police procedures. If you have been a victim of police misconduct in New York City, such as racial profiling, the civil rights lawyers at Phillips & Associates may be able to help.

Prohibitions on Racial Profiling

The End Racial Profiling Act or Local Law 71 was enacted to prohibit bias-based profiling by police officers after other measures were insufficient to stop the practice. Bias-based profiling occurs when a law enforcement officer relies on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, or other characteristics of identity as the determinative factor in whether to take a law enforcement action against a person. In other words, a police officer uses stereotypes as the sole basis for linking a person to a suspected crime.

Under Local Law 71, individuals have a private cause of action for intentional bias-based racial profiling or policies, or practices that result in disparate impacts on certain populations. Local Law 71 does not prohibit officers from considering race at all in deciding whether to start a law enforcement action, but it prohibits using race as the sole determinative factor. You can only sue under this law to change department policy, not to get damages.

If you believe a New York City police officer intentionally took a law enforcement action against you based on a characteristic that is listed in Local Law 71, such as race, you can sue based on intentional discrimination. To defend against this claim, the government would need to show it had a sound basis for targeting you. Intentional discrimination will not include reasonable actions that police take based on a specific description of a suspect.

Another basis for a lawsuit under Local Law 71 is "disparate impact." This type of case can be brought if a certain law enforcement action has a discriminatory impact on a particular community of people described in the law, such as the black community or the Latino community. It is not enough to cite statistics for these types of cases. You will also need to show evidence of how the policy disparately affects a particular community. The NYPD can successfully defend against a claim by showing the policy serves a legitimate law enforcement goal.

As noted above, racial profiling lawsuits are not brought to get money damages, but to change police policy. However, depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to bring claims for damages based on assault, battery, or excessive force as well.

Consult a New York City Lawyer to Discuss a Police Misconduct Claim

Stop and frisk procedures restricted minorities in New York from traveling and associating freely. The End Racial Profiling Act provides a valuable mechanism for changing police practices with regard to minorities. Racial profiling cases can be challenging to prove because police officers may unite behind a discriminatory practice or the actions of another officer. At Phillips & Associates, our civil rights attorneys offer experienced representation for people throughout New York City, including in the Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan. If you or a loved one is a victim of police brutality, call us at (212) 248-7431 or set up an appointment through our online form.

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