Probable Cause..Black, Latino and Young


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?

80 thoughts on “Probable Cause..Black, Latino and Young”

  1. If the billions of dollars in DHS Preemption & Prevention grants over the past decade had been invested in rebuilding our inner-cities (jobs) and hiring officers (police presence) it bet the crime rates would have been cut in half! It starts with good schools and good jobs.

  2. I wonder who Blumberg thinks is going to vote for his party once he finishes radicalizing a generation?

  3. THERE IS SOMETHING LEFT OUT concerning the stop and frisk.. which i have personal knowledge of. the stop and frisk also allows the cops to arrest people on false premises and when it comes to the young black and latino males.. its a adverse on them when they begin job hunting. even if the charges are dropped. the fact remains that they were arrested and of course potential employers become suspicious.. my personal knowledge comes from it happening to my son.. we were in the process of moving and my son and nephews were sitting on stoop waiting for me to bring back the van to load the rest of our things. when the so called super called the cops and told them they were trespassing. my son called me and as we were only moving down to the next block i was there in 2 secs. with our id’s my son was arrested anyway. because HE DARED TALK BACK TO THE COP… the cop called him a P*&^y and my son responded this coming from a axxhole. well now the cops wants to arrest him. so as i run up they are putting my son in the car. and when i asked why the cop said because of his mouth. so my nephew explained what was happening. and the cop responds he needs to learn some respect. i replied YOU’RE PISSED OFF BECAUSE ITS THE TRUTH. YOU ARE ACTING LIKE A AXXHOLE. MY SON IS A ADULT JUST AS YOU ARE AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS THE 1ST AMENDMENT. he tells me he’ll arrest me to. and i beg him to. i told him your in enough trouble arresting my son. please do the same for me. he huffed and puffed but refused to let my son go.. drummed up a trespassing , soliciting and disorderly conduct charge. and as it was the weekend. he stayed in until monday morning. where he was given a date to come back to court. went back and the charges were dropped but by then the damage was done.. a security job my son was interviewing for. gave him a date to come back for a 2nd interview then after the background check called and cancelled.

  4. The only reason the gun laws work in N.Y. and the same gun laws don’t work in Chicago is because if it looks like a gangbanger and talks like a gangbanger it’s probably a gangbanger and not your grandmother

  5. Bruce,
    are you suggesting that young black and latinos don’t have constitutional rights because of who they are or where they live?

  6. NYC seems to act like it is a separate country from the US when it comes to policing and intelligence work. Stop and frisk, and the way its run and numbers of victims are reminiscent of a third world dictatorship, or (Godwin’s Law alert!!!!) Germany before the war. I doubt that Terry stops were meant to become an obvious tool of harassment which is what they have become.

    Where is the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Dept? If that many of any recognizable group of people are presumed to be armed or in commission of a crime and warrants a S&F then either that tool is being used to harass/oppress that group or the police have a collective mental illness. What if women or handicapped people were stopped at that level of scrutiny? On it’s face it would be a discriminatory act. The only reason it’s OK is because of race and racial attitudes. Equal protection for everybody but the untermenchen du jour? If the JD ever gets off its a** on this issue NYC is a good starting point but only a starting point.

  7. ap,
    Ok, they are extensive!! 🙂
    I want to echo ap’s comment above. You are spot on that this should concern everyone.

  8. Deputy Chief Michael Marino in Stop and Frisk Trial: ‘Do Your Job or Suffer the Consequences’

    By Graham Rayman Mon., Mar. 25 2013 at 2:40 PM


    When then-NYPD Capt. Michael Marino arrived as a commander in the tough section of Brooklyn known as East New York, he was appalled at what the 400 officers in the command considered to be work.

    “They were doing five [summonses] a month, which was just not enough to address the problem,” he testified, about the onset of his tenure in the 75th Precinct back in 2002. “It was almost malfeasance … The level of activity they were performing was so low that it was a detriment to the community, in one of the most crime ridden precincts in the city.”

    Now a deputy chief, one of the top ranking commanders in the whole department, Marino testified Friday in the landmark legal challenge to the city’s stop and frisk campaign. An interesting character in the NYPD landscape, the Flatbush native rose from street cop to the second-in-command in Brooklyn North via a bullish persona, a matching physique and a devotion to the tenets of the NYPD’s numbers-driven CompStat strategy.

    He is also the man who ordered police to forcibly commit Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft to a psych ward back in October, 2009, three weeks after Schoolcraft reported misconduct in Bed-Stuy’s 81st Precinct to police investigators.

    In this second week of the trial, taking place in federal court in Manhattan, there is no testimony until Wednesday, when state Sen. Eric Adams, a retired NYPD captain and outspoken critic of some NYPD policies, will testify. He will be followed notably by the precinct commanders of the 43rd and 28th precincts and the commander of Patrol Borough Manhattan North.

  9. bigfatmike wrote:

    “It would seem that NYPD operates as a regional intelligence agency with little apparent supervision and essentially no accountability to the public.

    That ought to concern everyone.”


    “The NYPD asserts it can police itself.” -from the Stein link

    Not given what I’m seeing. Not given what I know.

    “bigfatmike” is correct:

    What’s transpiring “ought to concern everyone.”

    And that’s an understatement, from where I’m sitting.

  10. An old article… and it’s lengthy, but I’m posting…


    NYPD intelligence detectives go their own way

    By Jeff Stein

    Time was, 35 years ago, when the CIA had virtually no legislative oversight, no worries about congressional intelligence committees tracking its budgets or asking embarrassing questions.

    Today, members of the Senate and House intelligence committees say they still too often find themselves learning about questionable CIA practices from the media. Congress recently passed legislation to tighten up oversight.

    But there is still one important American intelligence organization over which neither they nor any other legislative body conducts meaningful oversight: the NYPD intelligence division’s International Liaison Program.

    With offices in 11 foreign capitals and an unpublished budget, the ILP’s far-flung counterterrorism cops operate outside the authority of top U.S. officials abroad, including the American ambassador and the CIA station chief, who is the nominal head of U.S. intelligence in foreign countries.

    Neither the Director of National Intelligence nor the Department of Homeland Security have any jurisdiction over the program. Nor have either done a study of how the NYPD’s foreign operations fit into U.S. counterterrorism programs — or don’t, officials say.

    The ILP is supported by private donors through the New York Police Foundation, which won’t say how much it has given the NYPD, beyond a sentence on its Web page that it sought to raise $1.5 million for the program in 2010. The NYPD itself won’t say whether any of its annual $178 million budget for intelligence and counterterrorism goes to posting detectives in Paris, London, Madrid or other posh capitals.

    Even the New York City Council member responsible for police oversight, Democrat Peter F. Vallone, Jr. admits he doesn’t know much about the ILP — starting with its full budget.

    Asked whether it was “fair to say” he had no idea of what the ILP was spending, he responded, “that’s fair. But my main concern is their use of taxpayer funds here in NYC.”

    Even if Vallone wanted to ride herd on the ILP, he said, his Public Safety Committee has only four staffers to monitor the entire, 34,500-strong police department.

    The NYPD asserts it can police itself.

    “The NYPD has an assistant commissioner who is responsible specifically for the supervision of overseas officers,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. “He does inspections overseas, and like other managers in the Intelligence Division reviews all spending or reimbursement, regardless of source, as does our budget personnel. And like any other officers, those overseas are subject to reviews and investigations of the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau.”

    The foundation is not always transparent about its expenses. Last month it turned out that it had picked up Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s $12,000 tab at the New York Harvard Club for the past eight years and paid a public relations agency $400,000 to burnish his image.

    In effect, critics say, no one outside the NYPD or foundation has any idea whether its foreign liaison officers in, say, Paris, are washing down their snails with a very fine Lafite Rothschild, or, as one former NYPD counterterrorism official insists, downing Bud Lights with Le Big Mac.

    “There’s not any indication they’re eating snails, but when it comes to these kinds of agencies,” Vallone admits, “snails can be hidden in a lot of places.”

    “There appears to be no monitoring of the NYPD, a municipal agency that in its anti-terrorism measures, has become a mini-CIA,” maintains Leonard Levitt, a longtime former Newsday police reporter and author of “NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country’s Greatest Police Force.”

    “There are no safeguards to ensure that the NYPD doesn’t break the law. So far as I know, there are no mechanisms in place to ensure that the NYPD does not become a rogue organization,” said Levitt, who broke the story about Kelly’s Harvard Club dues on his blog.

    Thomas V. Fuentes, who headed the FBI’s Office of International Operations from 2004 until his retirement in November 2008, calls the ILP “a complete waste of money.”

    “But it looks great, looks really terrific,” he scoffs.

    Fuentes, echoing views commonly held by current and former FBI and CIA officials, ticks off the limitations of New York’s overseas police intelligence operatives.

    “They’re not a member of the country team, they don’t have the top secret clearances and equipment to receive or send classified information. The countries they’re in, they’re there on tourist passports. They live in hotels or apartments.” Their out-of-channels status makes them virtually useless to other intelligence or police agencies, both U.S. and foreign, Fuentes argues.

    If one of those agencies “wants to pass along sensitive or classified information that pertains to the safety of New York City, they can’t give it to one of these guys,” he said. “They don’t have the security clearances to receive classified material, they don’t have the storage facility to store it and they don’t have an NSA-approved communications method to send it. So the countries don’t give it to them.”

    Fuentes wonders why Kelly and his intelligence chief, former CIA official David Cohen, have deployed cops abroad at untold expense when the NYPD already has about 100 members embedded in the Joint Terrorism Task Force, who are authorized to share classified information with cleared officers in their department.

    “They have top secret clearances, they see everything, they see all the sensitive material that’s reported by the CIA or FBI or other sources that’s coming in to the U.S., especially New York,” he says of the JTTF members. “They already get that.”

    It hasn’t always been that way, as the 9/11 Commission found in abundance. And as the David Headley and Detroit underwear bomber case showed, the intelligence agencies still have problems sharing information.

    Cohen and Kelly have not been shy about their antipathy for the U.S. intelligence community in general and the FBI specifically, saying the former has demonstrated it can’t protect New York and accusing the latter of withholding valuable information.

    “Cohen, a veteran of the federal government, knew his plan [to station cops abroad] was certain to irritate the CIA, FBI, and the Department of State in one fell swoop,” John G. Comiskey, an NYPD lieutenant, wrote in a paper for the Naval Postgraduate School earlier this year. “Cohen wanted NYPD to establish its own unique intelligence enterprise that could contend with the IC, and particularly the FBI …”

    Retired FBI counterterrorism expert Dan Coleman, who had worked at Alec Station, the CIA’s Osama Bin Laden unit, got an earful on day one of his employment with the NYPD intelligence division.

    After listening to Cohen’s profanity-laced diatribe about the FBI, according to the New York Post, “Coleman pushed his chair away from the table, calmly stood up and announced he was resigning — before he technically ever started – and walked out.”

    Kelly credits his foreign cops with saving lives in New York.

    “Most anywhere there has been a major terrorist attack in the last four years there has been a senior officer from the NYPD at the scene assembling lessons learned for New York… “ Kelly says on the Police Foundation’s Web page.

    But that’s the problem, critics say, pointing to a half dozen reported incidents of NYPD officers barging into the scenes of terrorist attacks in London, Mumbai, Madrid, Singapore and Jakarta, virtually impersonating U.S. counterterrorism agents and leaving local security officials confused, or worse, fuming.

    The most egregious cases occurred in London.

    Following the 1994 arrest there of Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, Kelly celebrated the participation of an undercover NYPD detective on the JTTF who worked the case and had his picture, along with his age, college education and Long Island upbringing sent to reporters — putting him at risk, some said.

    “In 24 years of the JTTF,” complained FBI New York spokesman Joseph Valiquette, “I can’t recall a JTTF investigator having his photo published in the midst of a prosecution.”

    The NYPD hogged the spotlight again there the next year, with more negative consequences, Fuentes says.

    Moments after the 2005 London subway bombings, “several New York police officers ran into the tunnel and showed their badges” as if they had official approval to participate in the investigation, Fuentes said.

    “And they didn’t. The cops went back out of the tunnel, called New York, and [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg and Kelly promptly held a press conference describing the carnage and what had gone on in the subway and how they’re going to protect our subway and populace and this kind of thing.”

    The British, famously secretive about their investigations, were furious, Fuentes said. “They were going to kick everybody out, including the FBI. The American ambassador is calling the FBI — ‘What’s the story? Who are these guys? Are they with you?’ ‘No, they’re independent.’”

    Scotland Yard, Special Branch and other British officials, albeit furious, Fuentes said, held their tongues, because “they didn’t want to create a diplomatic incident with Kelly and Bloomberg and New York City.”

    The FBI was reluctant to comment for the record about the NYPD’s foreign presence.

    Speaking on terms of anonymity, an official said the FBI “gets it. We understand New York’s desire to be proactive, to learn from the attacks and protect the city and its citizens. The question is how to best to do that.”

    Federal intelligence officials’ headaches may only have just begun.

    More big-city police, and not just New York’s, could be showing up at far-flung disaster sites in the future, under legislation that could find new life in the next Congress.

    A bill to create a Foreign Liaison Officers Against Terrorism program, or FLOAT, died in committee last year, but the likely next chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), is said to favor it.

    Meanwhile, NYPD spokesman Browne calls reports of friction with the FBI overblown.

    “Our relations, including David Cohen’s, with the FBI are excellent,” Browne says. “That kills those who wish it was otherwise.”

    1. The problems at NYPD “may be extensive”?

      There are at least two ways that the example of NYPD is cause for concern.

      In one sense, NYPD is an example of what is going on at other institutions, both those offering guidance to NYPD and those seeking to emulate NYPD.

      In the second sense, NYPD has carried out official activities far beyond its jurisdiction and far beyond the borders NY state. If we are to believe news reports, NYPD has carried out surveillance operations in neighboring states against Muslims.

      From the activities of NYPD, it is not clear what, if any, limitations NYPD might place on its jurisdiction or area of operation.

      It would seem that NYPD operates as a regional intelligence agency with little apparent supervision and essentially no accountability to the public.

      That ought to concern everyone.

  11. Rule of law? It’s meaningless to many in power from where I’m sitting.


    The CIA officer cited by the inspector general for operating without sufficient supervision, Lawrence Sanchez, was the architect of spying programs that helped make the NYPD one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. The programs have drawn criticism from Muslims as well as New York and Washington lawmakers.

    On Thursday, Muslim activists urged Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to resign and invoked the legacy of the 1960s FBI program COINTELPRO, which spied on political and activist groups.

    “We the people find ourselves facing the specter of a 21st century COINTELPRO, once again in the name of safety and security,” said Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York.

    Sanchez, a CIA veteran who according to his biography spent 15 years overseas in the former Soviet Union, South Asia and the Middle East, was sent to New York to help with information sharing following the 9/11 attacks. While on the CIA payroll from 2002 to 2004, he also helped create and direct police intelligence programs. He then formally joined the NYPD while on a leave of absence from the CIA.

    The loosely defined assignment strained relations with the FBI and two consecutive CIA station chiefs in New York who complained that Sanchez’s presence undermined their authority. U.S. officials have acknowledged that the rules were murky but they attributed that to the desperate push for better intelligence after the attacks.

    Sanchez left the NYPD in 2010. Then, last July, the CIA sent one of its most senior clandestine operatives to work out of the NYPD. That’s the officer who now is leaving. While the internal investigation found problems with the oversight of Sanchez’s assignment, officials said the rules of the current arrangement were more clearly defined.

    Even now, however, confusion remains. article continues…

  12. “Stop and Frisk” is but one aspect of a much bigger problem. Much bigger.

    From the “Village Voice” piece, above:

    “I’m a police officer and if I see something wrong, I have to say something. But I’m accusing someone of higher rank of telling me to do something that’s illegal.” -Bronx police officer Pedro Serrano

    “He testified yesterday that he filed a supposedly confidential complaint with Internal Affairs but his precinct commanders found out “almost immediately.”” -from the following article

    Serrano, 43, married with four children, remains on full duty, though one wonders what the department will do to him now that he has rebuked his bosses. He testified yesterday that he filed a supposedly confidential complaint with Internal Affairs but his precinct commanders found out “almost immediately.”

    The allegation is strikingly similar to claims made by Schoolcraft and Adhyl Polanco, who filed complaints with Internal Affairs over quota demands and retaliation in the 41st Precinct in Hunts Point.

    Serrano, an 8-year veteran, testified that he had no problems until McCormack was appointed commander. Suddenly Serrano found himself on the hot seat. At one point, Serrano says his bosses put cops on forced overtime, and ordered them to get five stops, issue five C summonses, and do five vertical patrols in one tour. He began receiving assignments usually reserved for rookie cops.

    And then, his evaluations got worse. He was called on the carpet for his “productivity” by a captain, who told him that 50 percent of his “grade” was based on his summons, arrest and stop and frisk numbers. He alleges that all of this was retaliation.

    “I said specifically that’s a quota and that’s illegal,” he says. But the captain replied that she could do that, based on an order at the end of 2011 by Police Commissioner Kelly.

    To Serrano, the order translated as “quota, quota, quota quota.”

    And so he started taping and then made his complaint with Internal Affairs. “I’m a police officer and if I see something wrong, I have to say something. But I’m accusing someone of higher rank of telling me to do something that’s illegal. They won’t believe me unless I have evidence.”

  13. Do not sue for declaratory and injunctive relief. Sue for money damages. It is what they will understand.

  14. Turn about is fair play. There needs to be a civil rights offensive. Call it the Bloomberg Target LLC for the organizational end. Sue every Law Enforcement Offender (state agent acting under color of state law) and their Superior (state agent acting under color of llaw), Chief of Police and Mayor (co-conspirators) and city of NY for each act of deprivation of civil rights i.e. false arrest, false detention, 4th Amendment, 14th Amendment violations, and for atty fees under 42 United States Code, sections 1983 and 1985 and 1988. Do not do it as a class action. Do individual cases for each offense by a Leo. Oppose any effort by the defense to consolidate cases. We need lawyers. Get off your divorce docket duffs and learn the ropes of jury trial in federal court in civil rights cases. Bloomberg has a deep pocket.

    Bloomberg will be singing the Waren Zevon song: Send lawyers , guns and money, Lord, get me out of this!

Comments are closed.