An appeals court Tuesday reversed the conviction of a 14-year-old boy arrested after a weapon was found in his backpack during a stop-and-frisk in the Bronx in 2010. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
Opponents of the New York City Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy legal victory Tuesday when an appeals court reversed the conviction of a 14-year-old boy arrested after a street search turned up a gun in his backpack.
A State Court of Appeals found that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to frisk the teenager and had no basis to believe there was a gun in the backpack other than their hunch. The court wrote that the boy's denials were insufficient, on their own, to create probable cause to search the backpack.
About two years ago, an officer saw the 14-year-old pace a sidewalk near the Manhattanville Houses in West Harlem.
The kid stepped between two parked cars, removed his backpack, knelt down and moved an 8-to-10-inch-long object from his waistband to the outer pocket of his backpack.
The cop testified that he thought the movement was suspicious and thought the object might be a gun.
The officer stopped the teen and asked for information. The appeals court ruled that was OK.
But the court says the search was not reasonable because the officer admitted there were no obvious hallmarks of a weapon.
The court also found that the officer couldn't reasonably conclude a crime was being committed.
The case goes to the heart of some of the complaints about the stop and frisk policy.
Opponents maintain police target African-Americans and often do not have enough evidence to frisk them.
Legal aid issued a statement that said "(The court) has reiterated that a police 'stop-and-frisk,' which is not based upon a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a crime, cannot be condoned."
The New York City Law Department also issued a statement, saying "Today’s decision is the second in one week in which three of the five judges reversed the trial court and found - erroneously, we believe - that the police lacked ‘reasonable suspicion’ to conduct a frisk. In each case, the facts gave rise to a reasonable suspicion of danger to the arresting officer. Interestingly, the police officers' searches also revealed dangerous weapons."
The city also says the majority opinion creates new obstacles for police officers who reasonably suspect that someone is carrying an illegal gun.
Lawyers for the city intend to appeal both cases.