Lawyers for the City of New York have argued the highly controversial Police practice of "Stop and Frisk," is not only legal, but has also helped pushed crime to record lows in New York City.
But for two weeks, I have sat in the lower Manhattan 15th floor courtroom of Federal Judge Shira Scheindin stunned at the testimony I was listening to.
It has been two weeks of damaging testimony against the NYPD with secret recordings of Police department Brass repeatedly pushing and yes ordering officers to make monthly quotas on arrests, summonses, and stop and frisks. That was mainly the testimony of Officer Adhyl Polanco of the 41st Precinct, and the plaintiffs argue such a quota system puts officers under pressure to make unconstitutional stops. Take a look here at a NY Times editorial against the police department titled: "Walking while Black in New York."
Another whistle-blower officer, Pedro Serrano, even testified to have made several arrests in one month, and that he expected to be praised by his NYPD bosses, but his productivity was not good enough. Serrano also said under oath that his locker has been destroyed by other cops, repeatedly called a "rat" by colleagues, and was reportedly reprimanded because he didn't have the apparent necessary number of monthly stop and frisks supervisors was looking for.
Here's what came out in week one of the trial.
Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack of a South Bronx precinct was secretly recorded telling another Whistle-blower cop to stop "the right people at the right time, the right location," and focus stop-and-frisks on "male blacks" between 14 and 21.
Is this a smoking gun that proves race plays a major role in such Police stops. The answer may not be so clear. McCormack on the recording also says:
"99 percent of the people in this community are great, hardworking people, who deserve to walk to the train, walk to their car, walk to the store," without becoming crime victims."
The police commissioner of NYC Ray Kelly said McCormack comment was taken out of context, but days later at the trial, another officer Brian Dennis said on the stand, that he taunted an innocent handcuffed 13 year old teen, Devin Almonor, (the son of a retired officer) who was initially walking home from school to "stop crying like a little girl,"
Asked during cross-examination if he thought the comment was appropriate, Dennis responded, "Looking back, no."
Then yet another officer, Cormac Joyce on the stand admitted that when he was shown a picture of a complainant against him, who is latino, Joyce who is now a New Jersey State Trooper said:
'He looks like half the people in the Bronx,
Does such language prove racial profiling? Or simply the need to be more political correct when responding?
This Federal Class action suit is titled Floyd, et al v city of New York and testimony ended week two focused on the man the case is named after David Floyd, one of the four plaintiffs that claim they were unfairly stopped by police because of their race.
Floyd is 33 years old and currently in medical school. He claims he has been "stopped and frisked" by the NYPD twice.
The police stop in question was February 27, 2008 in a residential area of Soundview in the Bronx, at 1359 Beach Ave. Floyd testified he was helping a locked-out neighbor use a spare set of keys to enter a ground floor apartment in the house, but police had reports of house robberies in the area.
Three plainclothes, anti-crime officers in an unmarked car, including Sgt. James Kelly, a nearly 15 veteran of the force stopped Floyd.
Sgt. Kelly testified that the officers filled out the required and necessary UF-250 police form for such a stop and frisk, but on the stand under tough questioning from plaintiff lawyer Darius Charney, Sgt. Kelley was forced to admit that neither the two officers nor himself made an entry in their "memo" book about the stop. Meaning, required paperwork was incomplete or inconsistent, making it difficult to determine whether the stop was lawful. Attorney Charney told me the following on RNN-TV that the officers patterns of testimony was inconsistent, alleging the stories have changed 3 times:
"They contradict each other and they themselves have changed their stories overtime. I don't have any faith that what any of them is saying is true about the stop . I don't think they had a legitimate basis to make the stop. ......what's going on here is racial stereotyping."
The Floyd stop ended with no one being arrested, but the medical student testified he felt
humiliated with even his groin area allegedly being checked by police.
One Police Department memo also became public which was dated just 13 days before the start of the federal trial. Officers are now being ordered to provide more details to justify stopping and searching people other than checking a box for "furtive movements" on the 250 form.
That was one of the issues I reported live on RNN-TV.
Secretly recorded tapes from Brooklyn Officer Adrian Schoolcraft were also played at the trial.
At a Nov. 1, 2008, roll call, a Lt. Jean Delafuente is heard telling officers that making the arrest quota should be easy in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn.
"You're working in Bed-Stuy, where everyone's probably got a warrant,"
Schoolcraft claims he was taken against his will to a psych ward for 6 days by Police Brass to discredit his allegations that the 81st Precinct pushed officers to fill arrest quotas.
The Center for Constitutional Rights brought the lawsuit on behalf of four black plaintiffs who claim they were stopped by police. The center alleges that many of the 5 million stops in the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men, were made without cause.