NYPD Stops of (Mostly) People of Color Wrong 90 Percent of the Time: 'High Error Rate,' Judge Says
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On Monday, plaintiffs attorney Jonathan Moore (with the Center for Constitutional Rights) said the trial is not just about quotas, but "pressure." A survey on the "numbers game" conducted by John Eterno of Molloy College and Eli B. Silverman of John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that retired police officers reported a four-fold increase in pressure on officers to do stops in the Bloomberg and Kelly era. During closings, Moore noted a simultaneous decrease in pressure to follow the Constitution, which he called a "lethal combination."
"More importantly this pressure does not exist we believe in a vacuum," said Moore. "The police feel pressure to get numbers in the context of an admitted strategy that targets young black and Hispanic males."
Moore referenced Sen. Eric Adams' "unrebutted" testimony that NYPD Commisioner Ray Kelly once told him he targeted young men of color "because he wanted to instill fear in them that every time that they left their homes they could be stopped by police." Moore also questioned Commissioner Ray Kelly's refusal to walk across the street from One Police Plaza and testify.
Heads in the Sand
Plaintiffs have accused the city and NYPD of adopting a "head in the sand" approach to stop-and-frisk. During closing, they cited as evidence their lack of concern with a one-tenth hit rate for stops, disparate stops for people of color, and denial of racial profiling complaints. Multiple NYPD witnesses, including former Chief of Department Joseph Esposito, had testified that they never heard complaints of racial profiling from the communities targeted by stop-and-frisk.
"To suggest that no one has complained about racial profiling or bad stops is disingenuous, in and of itself evidence of a deliberate indifference," Moore said during summation.
Helen McAleer, the commanding officer of Investigation Review for the NYPD, testified earlier in the trial that her office received very few racial profiling complaints, but also said that neither racial profiling nor stop-and-frisk complaints were matched to a code in their system. Rather, both are categorized under “general dissatisfaction.”
Plaintiffs attorney Darius Charney testified in closing arguments that, "We believe the fact that the police department does not consider something racial profiling, unless somebody uses explicitly the words 'race' or 'racial bias,' we think is a head-in-the-sand approach."
Plaintiffs also allege that constitutional violations stemming from stop-and-frisk are part of a top-down policy starting with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Under his and Kelly's leadership, the NYPD conducted 4.4 million stops, more than a 600% increase since Bloomberg took office. The defense say the increase came from an increased focus on paperwork.
Should the judge rule in their favor, plaintiffs are calling for sweeping changes that would dramatically alter how NYPD officers are trained, supervised, and held accountable for stop-and-frisk. They requested better documentation of stops and more supervision of officers, as well as the revocation of Operations Order 52, which allows performance goals. They are also calling for an "independent monitor" to assist communication between the NYPD and the communities most affected by policing.
During closing arguments, Judge Scheindlin asked questions about the possibility of a "body-worn" camera to ensure that police officers are, indeed, following the law. She is expected to rule on Floyd, and possibly make recommendations for relief, in the next couple of months. Plaintiffs will not receive any monetary compensation.