Trial over NYPD stop-and-frisk tactic set to begin

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There were only 419 murders in 2012, the lowest since similar record-keeping began in the 1960s, down from more than 2,000 in the 1990s. And there were 531,159 people stopped, more than five times the number when Bloomberg took office a decade ago. Fifty-one percent of those stopped were Black, 32 percent Hispanic and 11 percent white. According to census figures, there are 8.2 million people in the city: 26 percent are Black, 28 percent are Hispanic and 44 percent are White.

About half the people are just questioned. Others have their bag or backpack searched. And sometimes police conduct a full pat-down. Only 10 percent of all stops result in arrest, and a weapon is recovered a fraction of the time.

Police documents indicate that officers are drawn to suspicious behavior: furtive movements, actions that indicate someone may be serving as a lookout, anything that suggests a drug deal or a person carrying burglary tools such as a slim jim or pry bar.

Celeste Koeleveld, a city Law Department attorney, said police go where the crime is, and minorities are overwhelmingly the victims of violent crime in the city. A 2003 court settlement and various city laws have instructed police to provide stop-and-frisk data and avoid racial profiling.

“Precinct by precinct, the rates at which minorities are stopped are consistent with the rates at which minorities are identified as crime suspects. That statistic, not the census, is the appropriate benchmark for analyzing police enforcement activity,” Koeleveld said.

But minority residents say they’re targeted regardless of location. Nicholas Pert, a 24-year-old Black man, says he has been stopped many times in his gentrified Harlem neighborhood, while his White neighbors are not.

“We go to the gym and we have hoodies,” he said. “One of my friends said, ‘Maybe we should walk around with yoga mats instead.'”

Recent polls show a stark divide over howBlacks and Whites view the tactic, while among Hispanics, disapproval of the practice has grown. The debate has drawn in Muslim-Americans concerned about NYPD surveillance revealed in a series of reports by The Associated Press; the family of a 16-year-old shot by police who say he couldn’t have had a gun; and City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who was detained at the September 2011 West Indian Day Parade. He recently tangled with Kelly on the issue during a public safety hearing.

The case was first filed in 2008 on behalf of David Floyd, a freelance film and video editor, and three others. It has since been named a class-action lawsuit on behalf of everyone who may have been wrongly stopped. Floyd said he was stopped and harassed at least twice by police, once simply walking home and again outside his apartment. In both cases, he said, they had no reason to stop him.

The trial is expected to last more than a month and include more than 100 witnesses. Lawyers will also plan to play hours of audio tapes made by Adrian Schoolcraft, an officer who was hauled off to a psych ward against his will after he said he refused to fill illegal quotas. His former bosses, including some reassigned after their statements were made public, are also expected.

In addition to seeking broad reforms, the lawsuit also requests a court-appointed monitor to oversee those changes.

 

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