Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
Much has been written about New York City’s stop and frisk policies, but until now, the evidence of who the police were stopping and why was not a matter of public record. A recent class action suit has opened the door to learning the true numbers involved as well as the accurate demographics of just who is getting stopped by the NYPD. “New York police officers testifying before a federal court this week said that racist quotas imposed by ranking officers are behind the police department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, confirming years of accusations made by civil rights and community advocates that the department’s tactics disproportionately target minorities.
The class action suit, Floyd v. City of New York, is taking on New York police commissioner Ray Kelly and mayor Michael Bloomberg—both long champions of the tactic— as well as the city itself, in an attempt to prove that the NYPD has “demonstrated a widespread and systemic pattern of unconstitutional stops,” the Guardian writes. According to department data, the NYPD has made roughly 5 million street stops in the past decade, the vast majority of those stopped being young African American or Latino men. Nearly nine out of 10 of those stopped by police have walked away without a summons or arrest.” Common Dreams
It seems that the police are handcuffed by their supervisors requirements and forced to stop certain demographic groups and to maintain a prescribed minimum number of those stops. Is the NYPD breaking the law when they stop and frisk young Latino and Black men just because of who they are? “By law, the NYPD is permitted to stop a person if they have reasonable suspicion to believe the person is about to commit a crime, is in the process of committing a crime, or have just finished committing a crime. The officer is allowed to frisk, or pat down, an individual “if they have reason to believe the person is an armed threat.” And they can then reach inside the clothing, or search the individual, “if they have encountered an object they have reason to believe is a weapon.”
According to critics, these defined parameters regularly go unmet and instead, the NYPD has instituted “a sense of second-class citizenship in minority communities in which individuals—particularly young men—are routinely subjected to illegal and degrading stops,” the Guardian writes.” Common Dreams
The NYPD officers testifying in the class action trial allege that their supervisors required quotas of stop and frisk actions and that there were adverse consequences if those officers did not meet the quotas.
“Officer Adhyl Polanco began his testimony Tuesday by saying “there’s a difference between” the department’s policies on paper and “what goes on out there”, on the city’s streets. Polanco testified that in 2009, officers in his Bronx precinct were expected to issue 20 summons and make one arrest per month. If they did not they would risk denied vacation, being separated from longtime partners, undesirable assignments and other consequences.
Polcano claimed it was not uncommon for patrol officers who were not making quotas to be forced to “drive the sergeant” or “drive the supervisor”, which meant driving around with a senior officer who would find individuals for the patrol officer to arrest or issue a summons to, at times for infractions the junior officer did not observe. “We were handcuffing kids for no reason,” Polanco said. Claiming he was increasingly disturbed by what he was witnessing in his precinct, Polcanco began secretly recording his roll call meetings. ” Guardian
Officer Polcano actually went a step further and secretly recorded conversations with his supervisors and those recordings are not pretty for civil libertarians. One of his fellow NYPD officers also recorded his conversations with his supervisor. “Bronx police officer Pedro Serrano also secretly recorded comments made by supervisors at the same Bronx precinct. His recordings were also played for the court this week.
On a track played Thursday, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack was heard telling Serrano he needed to stop “the right people, the right time, the right location”. When asked what he believed McCormack meant Serrano told the court: “he meant blacks and Hispanics.” Later in the tape McCormack says: ‘ “I have no problem telling you this … male blacks. And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem [to] tell you this, male blacks 14 to 21.” ‘ Guardian
Whether New York City is continuing these allegedly illegal stop and frisk policies in order to make money for the city or to prevent crime may be irrelevant. If the testimony of these officers is to believed, NYPD is breaking the law on an immense scale. How many of the 5 Million stops in the last decade were done without probable cause? We may never know the exact number, but if the quotas and the demographics of who they are supposed to stop are accurate, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly are leading a massive, purposeful violation of the law.
The officers who bravely testified and secretly recorded the conversations with their supervisors have taken a huge personal risk. They forwarded their complaints to Internal Affairs and their confidential claims were “leaked” to their supervisors. The Village Voice
Will they lose their jobs and or their pensions because they saw a wrong and wanted to right it? What impact do these allegedly illegal stop and frisk policies have on the Latino and African-American communities? Would it be surprising to think that these stops could cause even more unrest in the communities that the NYPD claims they are trying to prevent?
Is the rule of law dead in New York City? I can’t imagine what laws would have been broken if these young men of color had been stopped while drinking a Big Gulp! What do you think?