US judge orders monitor for New York police

A US judge has appointed a monitor to oversee the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-search policy, saying it intentionally discriminates based on race and has violated the rights of tens of thousands of people.

The judge on Monday ruled in favor of four men who said they were unfairly targeted. Police have made about 5 million stops over the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men.

The practice has become "a fact of daily life in some New York City neighborhoods," US District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin said in a ruling.

She said she was not putting an end to the policy but was reforming it.

The mayor and police commissioner have defended the practice- known as stop, question and frisk - as a life-saving tool. City lawyers have argued the policedepartment does a good job monitoring itself.

The practice has led to protests and warnings that it is creating resentment and anger.

Scheindlin said police officials had been warned in past years of violations, but "despite this notice, they deliberately maintained and even escalated policies and practices that predictably resulted in even more widespread ... violations."

The ruling on the nation's largest police department may affect how other US police departments operate, legal experts said.

The city had no immediate response to the ruling.

The judge said she determined at least 200,000 stops were made without reasonable suspicion.

"The city and its highest officials believe that blacks and Hispanics should be stopped at the same rate as their proportion of the local criminal suspect population," Scheindlin wrote. "But this reasoning is flawed because the stopped population is overwhelmingly innocent - not criminal."