A federal judge on Wednesday approved a class action suit for those claiming they have been unlawfully stopped, questioned and frisked by the New York City Police Department.
The lawsuit alleges the NYPD's "Stop and Frisk" practices are unconstitutional and racially discriminatory.
The ruling allows for anyone stopped and frisked since January 2005 to be plaintiffs.
The judge called the city's attitude toward the stops "deeply troubling."
Attorneys for the plaintiffs say the practice is unconstitutional, and it targets blacks and Hispanics.
"There is just a huge disparity in who is being stopped. But that when you compare that to the crime data, when you compare it to the census data, there really is no connection to who they are stopping. It is really about race," said Darius Charney of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly refused to comment on the decision but defended the policy.
"My understanding is the polls show overwhelming support by the public for the tactics that we've been using to bring down crime. There's always going to be somebody that disagrees and they have the right," Bloomberg said. "We do everything we can that's legal to keep this city safe so you can walk in any neighborhood in the city and not have to worry about getting shot."
The newest "Stop and Frisk" numbers from the NYPD show more than 203,000 street stops were made from January through March. That is up from the same quarter last year.
Criticism of the policy by those eyeing a mayoral run is mounting too, from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a close Bloomberg ally, to Bill Thompson, to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. They have all called for changes in the practice.
Other lawmakers had mixed reactions to the suit.
"It's disappointing that so much resources have to spent on what everybody understands is a policy that not only is ineffective that is racial and prejudicial by its nature. And the two people that don't understand that is the mayor and the commissioner," said Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams.
"There is a legitimate question to be had here when it comes to how much is too much when it comes to stop and frisk. But it is a program that has to continue to get the guns from the gangbangers," said Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.
The City Law Department says it disagrees with the judge and will review its legal options.