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Highest-Ranking NYPD Cop: 'I Never Discussed Racial Profiling'

The former NYPD chief testified in federal court that he never felt the need to mention the issue to officers accused of racial profiling.

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Upon receiving audits, the Center for Constitutional Rights found that the NYPD has increased its use of stop-and-frisk in the years since the Daniels settlement, and filed another class-action lawsuit, Floyd v. the City of New York, in which Esposito testified Tuesday.

From 2002 to 2011, the NYPD increased stop-and-frisk by more than 600% to more than 685,000 stops. “That increase is all on your watch, correct?” attorney Moore asked Esposito.

“Yes it is. As is the 40% decrease in crime,” Esposito testified. As Moore pointed out, however, the 600% increase in stop-and-frisk is a far greater percentage than the drop in crime. Moreover, while stop-and-frisk has increased exponentially since 2002, the rate of gun violence has remained relatively the same.

Lack of Oversight

Esposito repeatedly stressed that supervisors’ review of the UF-250 forms officers are required to complete after a stop provides sufficient evidence as to whether racial profiling occurred. “If you establish reasonable suspicion, then there is no racial profiling,” Esposito said.

Esposito testified that if a supervisor signs off on a 250, that indicates sufficient self-inspection to ensure quality stops, because the checkboxes on the form allow the officer to document reasonable suspicion. Many categories, like “furtive movements,” are vague, and Moore challenged Esposito’s claim that officers’ completion of the form provides ample evidence that racial profiling is not at play.

The patrol guide for the NYPD mandates officers to include in their activity log, also called a memo book, additional information about a stop, offering as an example a man “randomly” looking into windows as the background for “casing” to commit a crime as reasonable suspicion. Esposito said that officers do not always complete their memo books, however, and believes that doing is so unnecessary and even “redundant,” though his view is out of line with department policy.

Esposito said the NYPD relies on supervisors to ensure that officers are conducting proper stops. “I would call that a system to identify officers who aren’t operating properly,” he said.

Secretly recorded roll calls in NYPD precincts have captured supervisors demanding that officers meet illegal quotas for stops, summonses and arrests, thereby coercing them to do so illegally. Two NYPD whistleblowers responsible for the recordings, Adhyl Polanco and Pedro Serrano, testified in court last month.

In a summary of COMPSTAT meetings at which Esposito presided, the former Chief of Department is cited discussing figures, commenting about particular numbers of summonses, arrests and stops in precincts, and asking why some numbers were down. He testified in court that he does not believe supervisors set quotas; he said they are loose performance goals or standards, but he conceded it is possible that they might be “misinterpreted” by officers as hard quotas. Throughout his testimony, Esposito stressed that the NYPD’s enforcement activity is color-blind and targets crime conditions, like an area with recent robberies, rather than race. For residents of the higher-crime communities where stop-and-frisk is most aggressively used, however, the policing tool can do more harm than good.

Present for some of Esposito’s testimony Tuesday was Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham. She told AlterNet at the stop-and-frisk march in June that she believed Graham would still be alive were it not for racial profiling. On Tuesday, she said, “I still do.”

Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne