Last week was a big one in the fight against stop and frisk: Manhattan Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that stop and frisk has led to unconstitutional stops, ordering tougher oversight of police and even mandating the use of cameras during stops. The decision–a huge one, to be sure–overshadowed another important ruling casting a harsh light on the Mayor’s pet policy: Brooklyn Federal Judge John Gleeson finding that the April 4 stop and frisk of Ronald Mayo Jr. to be unconstitutional after police falsely claimed Mayo was stopped because of a visible handgun.
On April 4, NYPD Officers Konrad Zakiewicz and Salwa Jwayyed and Sgt. Kwame Kipp spotted Mayo Jr. walking down Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn and stopped him. Mayo was out on parole after spending four years in prison on assault charges.
According to court documents, Zakiewicz said to his colleagues “I want to stop that guy” right before they grabbed him.
At issue was whether Zakiewicz, Jwayyed, and Kipp saw Mayo’s holstered gun before or after holding him.
At the time, Mayo was wearing a hoodie that would have obscured view of the gun tucked into his pant leg. However, the officers claimed to have seen the gun before Mayo raised his hands–and his hoodie–in surrender.
Under the logic of stop and frisk as it’s practiced, the officers would have been able to stop Mayo regardless of whether they saw the gun or not.
And if the police had seen the gun, they would have announced it to each other before approaching an armed man. That Zakiewicz made no mention of the gun when he announced his plan to “stop that guy” made his claim less credible.
Gleeson, not believing Zakiewicz and the other officers, ruled that discovery of the gun was poisoned by an illegal search and had to be suppressed, functionally equating stop and frisk to an unjustified exercise of police power.
It’s not likely that this ruling will attract as much attention as Scheindlin’s, but it does indicate that our courts are finally starting to show up like they should have been.
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