Skip Navigation
Court Case Tracker

People v. Ali Cisse (Amicus Brief)

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and Cato Institute have filed an amicus brief in People v. Ali Cisse arguing that a police officer’s command to “stop!” is inherently intimidating and threatening, especially to communities of color, and should require a “founded suspicion” of criminality.

Published: December 11, 2018

People v. Ali Cisse is a case about police-citizen interactions and the level of suspicion an officer must have before issuing a command to “stop.”

Ali, an African-American teen who was 17 years old at the time, was walking at night when a uniformed officer commanded him to stop, “hold up,” and “turn around.” The parties agree that the officer had no basis for this request. Mr. Cisse turned around as instructed, revealing the outline of a handgun tucked into his waistband, and was arrested. He was ultimately convicted of third-degree weapon possession. His appeal is now before the New York Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court.

Ali’s conviction rests on a 1994 decision, People v. Reyes, where the Court of Appeals summarily decided that an officer commanding a citizen to “stop!” is nothing more than a “request for information,” requiring no suspicion whatsoever. Critical to the Court’s determination was the conclusion that a uniformed officer’s instruction to “stop!” is neither intimidating nor threatening.

The Brennan Center and Cato Institute filed an amicus brief explaining that this understanding fails to reflect the realities of modern-day citizen perceptions of police. Based on empirical evidence and a thorough review of the law, the Brennan Center and Cato Institute argue that Ali Cisse should prevail — and Reyes should be overturned — because an officer’s command to “stop!” is now understood as inherently intimidating and threatening, especially to communities of color. By requiring police officers to have a “founded suspicion” — a relatively easy standard to meet — before commanding a person to “stop,” New York can discourage police interactions that damage police-community relations and do little to increase public safety.

For more read the amicus brief here.