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Cover of NYCLU report: Stop and Frisk 2011-2012
Cover of New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) Report on Stop and Frisk activity
The class-action lawsuit, Floyd v. City of New York, now on trial in Federal Court, which is challenging the New York Police Department (NYPD) "Stop and Frisk" policy, is not just important for New Yorkers who are adversely affected by this policy, but has national implications in the fight against racial profiling, limitations of civil liberties and discrimination.

The case summary as explained by The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR):

Floyd v. City of New York is a class-action lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy. The case charges the police department with a policy and practice of unreasonable, suspicionless and racially discriminatory stops in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause barring racial discrimination.

To be legal, a police stop must be based on a reasonable, articulable, individualized suspicion of criminal activity. The NYPD’s own data show hundreds of thousands of unconstitutional stops just in the last three years. Expert analysis of that data reveals that after controlling for crime, neighborhood, patterns of police deployment and other factors, the deciding factor in stops by the NYPD is race.

Filed in 2008, the case was certified as a class-action in May 2012, making all people illegally stopped since 2005 plaintiffs. The case is before Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York.
Co-counsel in the case is Covington & Burling LLP and Beldock, Levine & Hoffman LLP.

The history of this action dates back to a 2003 victory in Daniels, et al. v. The City of New York, et al, which was filed in 1999, after the killing by police of unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo.

Though I covered the opening of the trial last Tuesday in Black Kos, I felt it was important to continue the coverage, with updates, and the implications for other citizens who live in cities with stop-and-frisk policies in place, or whose elected officials are considering them.

Before re-capping the history and providing reports from the trial from people who are attending, there is a short video documentary that every person who is concerned with civil liberties should see, about the NYPD, and its policy, from the perspectives of the victims as well as the police officers who are under pressure to enforce this unconscionable, and unconstitutional policy.

(Warning: The video includes violent acts and racist language uttered by police officers)

New York's blatantly discriminatory practices have been well-documented by both the CCR and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).

Most important is the data dispelling the myths perpetrated by the NYPD and the mayor, as well as many mainstream media "journalists."  

Follow me below the fold for myth-debunking, more information, NYC trial testimony and accounts from eyewitnesses.

When you hear or read someone spouting right-wing myths and talking points about stop-and-frisk and racial profiling, here is a handy fact sheet compiled by the CCR:

Myths and Facts About Stop and Frisk*

MYTH: Stop and Frisk saves lives, stops crimes

FACT: Stop and frisk nets very few criminals of any kind. Only 6 percent of stops result in arrests (and another 6 percent result in summons). The arrests are overwhelmingly not for violent crimes but rather for so-called quality of life violations. More important, the vast majority of people are not stopped because they fit the descriptions of suspects in a violent crime but for vague and reasons like “furtive movement.” In only about 15 percent of stops do police officers record the reason as “fits description,” while “furtive movement” is listed in 54 percent of all stops.

MYTH: Stop and Frisk gets guns off the streets

FACT: The rate of seizure of guns during stops is miniscule: 0.15 percent. This is lower than the rate of gun seizures at random checkpoints, suggesting both that it is an ineffective way to try to get guns off the street and that seizing weapons is not really the reason people are being stopped. (For all “contraband,” the number is still only 1.8 percent.)

MYTH: Stop and Frisk is responsible for the record reduction in crime

FACT: There is no credible evidence and not a single published study showing that stop and frisk has played a meaningful role in the reduction of crime, no matter how many times officials repeat that talking point. Large cities that do not have an aggressive stop-and-frisk policy have seen a similar reduction in crime.

MYTH: Stop and Frisk is not racially discriminatory because Blacks and Latinos make up the majority of violent crime suspects
(Blacks were 55 percent of the stop subjects and 66 percent of the violent crime suspects in 2012, Latinos 32 percent of stops, 26 percent of violent crime suspects, according to the City‘s press release on the year‘s statistics)

FACT: People are not being stopped on suspicion of being violent criminals, since ‘fits description” is cited only in only about 15 percent of stops, and about the same percentage of stops are made on suspicion of violent crimes (the majority of stops are on suspicion of property, quality of life, and minor drug crimes). Moreover, suspect race is completely unknown in nearly 40 percent of all crimes reported to the NYPD each year.

MYTH: The police merely go where the crime rates are highest, which happens to be in predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods: that is why more stops are of Black and Latino New Yorkers.

FACT: While “high crime area” is checked off on 60 percent of stop records, a comparison of actual crime rates reveals that the claim was made at roughly the same rate regardless of the actual crime rate in an area. A disproportionate number of stops were of Blacks and Latinos in predominately white neighborhoods, too.

After controlling for crime, local social conditions and the concentration of police officers in an area, race is a primary explanatory factor for stops at both the individual and neighborhood level. Blacks and Latinos accounted for 87 percent of 2012 stops, but they are only 53 percent of the population.

MYTH: The NYPD has already made changes to address the problem; it improved its training and its internal auditing.

FACT: These changes are window dressing at best.

The new anti-racial profiling policy the NYPD introduced is virtually identical to the old one. The department has always had a decent policy on paper, the problem has been that they did not implement it in practice. Issuing a new written policy does nothing to address the issue.

The only change the NYPD made to its internal stop-and-frisk audits and self-inspections was to change the title of the person in each precinct who conducts them from Integrity Control Officer to Executive Officer. Everything else about the audit, which does nothing more than check completed UF250 stop forms to make sure officers filled them out correctly, remains the same.

The new training documents and videos the NYPD issued last spring and used to “retrain” NYPD personnel last summer actually misstate the Fourth Amendment law on stop and frisk, as Judge Scheindlin found in her January decision in Ligon.

*All data on reasons for stops based on police records through June 2012 obtained by court order in the course of the Floyd v. City of New York litigation. All 2012 data through the end of the year based on NYPD press releases

In cities across the U.S. myth-making mayors and police chiefs have used many of the same specious arguments. In 2010, the ACLU sued Philadelphia, and is now back in the news again since stop-and-frisk problems persist. One highlight of their data relates to marijuana possession:
Blacks, whites and green

The ACLU report also analyzed citywide marijuana possession arrests between September and November of 2012.

It found black people accounted for 84.4 percent of the arrests even though they constitute 43.4 percent of Philadelphia’s population.

White people, who make up 36.9 percent of the city’s population, accounted for only 5.8 percent of pot possession arrests.

“To find nearly 90 percent of the arrests were minorities when all the self reporting studies show whites probably use marijuana more than minorities, that’s troubling,” Rudovsky said. “Whether that’s a matter of police deployment or police tactics, it’s something I think the city has to look at.”

Infographic on The Impact of NYPD Stop and Frisk, from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
The Impact of Stop and Frisk (CCR)
In the lead-up to Floyd, the CCR issued a report on Racial Disparity in the NYCPD Stops-and-Frisks. The NYCLU's NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Activity in 2011 (2012), is also online, as is a phone app that citizens can download to report police activity.

The CCR has an infographic (shown here), and has compiled a mapping project with data on stops from each New York City borough.  

Racial disparities in policing are not just a New York problem. We are well aware of past issues with both profiling, and deaths that have resulted from police aggression in cities large and small across the United States.

We now have as part of our language terms like "driving while black" (DWB) or brown, or red ....

In February Kossak jpmassar  wrote Mr. "Stop & Frisk" Comes to Oakland:

In the wee hours of the morning of January 23rd, after hearing testimony from hundreds of people, the Oakland City Council voiced its approval (7-1) of a controversial police consulting contract extension which would bring William Bratton to Oakland.

William Bratton, currently a high-priced consultant, former Chief of Police of Boston, New York and Los Angeles, and potentially a future Chief of Police of London, England, is well known for the heavy-handed tactics that he claims reduces crime: Stop & Frisk, curfews, gang injunctions, "broken windows theory" (wherein petty crimes are pursued with religious fervor) and the like.

Coming to a neighborhood near you?

More discussion of the constitutionality, and voices of the victims can be heard here:

As I reported on Tuesday, The Village Voice has been covering all the aspects of these cases in New York and have had an ongoing blog "Runnin' Scared," which started with an award-winning piece of journalism, "The NYPD Tapes," by Graham Rayman.

Cover photo for Village Voice story NYPD Tapes
Key testimony in the trial is from police officers who secretly recorded internal pressure to fill summons and arrest "quotas"—quotas the NYPD claims not to have.

New NYPD Tapes Introduced In Stop and Frisk Trial:

Police Officer Pedro Serrano recorded his commanding officer in a Bronx precinct just last month bringing a racial component into his orders to perform more stop and frisks, according to testimony and audio played in day four of the landmark challenge to one of the NYPD's signature strategies.

Meanwhile, recordings made by a second police officer, Adrian Schoolcraft, in the 81st Precinct in Bed-Stuy and first obtained by the Village Voice echoed inside the courtroom three years after they were made.

The remarkable exchange captured in February, 2013 by Serrano goes to the heart of plaintiff's contention in Floyd v. City of New York that the vast rise in stop and frisks were racially biased. The city has countered that the number of stops correspond to crime trends.

The commander, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack, makes the case that the 40th is a precinct beset by violent crime. As they talk, the NYPD's obsession with quota numbers lingers in the background.

"We're still one of the most violent commands in the city, and to stop two people, you know, to see only two things going on, that's almost like you're purposefully not doing your job at all," he says.

The talk quickly turns to numbers: stop and frisks and quality of life summonses. "We need to do this," McCormack says.

The inspector then instructs Serrano to stop "the right people, at the right time, at the right location."

Serrano is puzzled. "Mott Haven is full of black and Hispanic people, so who are the right people?"

The inspector seems to get annoyed. "This is not, this is not..."

"So what am I supposed to do? Is it stop every black and Hispanic?" Serrano says. "I'm not going to do that. You want to do that. I'm not going to do that."

"No, no, no, this is very important to understand," the inspector says. "Because it's the right people, the right time, the right location."

"Mott Haven is full of black people, so who are the right people?" Serrano asks.

MacCormack: "The problem was male blacks, 14 to 20, 21."

Serrano: "So what am I supposed to do? Male blacks 14 to 20 wearing dark clothing? What do you want me to do specifically?"

Earlier in the week, plaintiffs in the case took the stand, as reported in the New York Daily News, in an article, Bronx man weeps as he testifies about stop-and-frisk clashes with NYPD: 'I felt embarrassed, and I felt like I didn't belong there':
A Bronx man wept on the witness stand Tuesday as he recounted how he was stopped, searched and handcuffed by cops on his way to buy milk for his family
Nicholas Peart, 24, who began caring for his three siblings after their mother died of cancer two years ago, said his 2011 run-in with the NYPD on 144th St. at 11 p.m. made him feel “degraded.”
CCR has profiles of all the plaintiffs here.

I've also been reading the reports from attendees. Most interesting are reports from The Morris Justice Project, which describes itself thus:

The Morris Justice Project is a collaborative research team of neighborhood residents in the south Bronx and members of the Public Science Project, the CUNY Graduate Center, John Jay College, and Pace University Law Center. Sponsored by the Public Science Project, we have spent two years documenting experiences of policing in our 40 block community near Yankee stadium. Active in Communities United for Police Reform and deeply concerned about the NYPD’s use of stop and frisk, we are closely watching the historic Floyd v. the City of New York trial. Rachel Jane Liebert is representing us in the courtroom and will be sending regular notes to this blog from the trial.
Here are some highlight's from Jane Liebert's reports for the Morris Justice Project:
After the crowds of yesterday, I arrived at the courtroom embarrassingly early this morning and spent an hour or so smitten with the view out of the fifteenth floor windows of 500 Pearl Street. Wearing a hat of mist, the scattered snow-scene of downtown Manhattan was beautiful and meditative. It seemed twisted that I could find peace in the phallus of a system that pours people into cages. Perhaps likely not not because I was gazing from the body of what can at least pass for a young, white, upwardly-mobile, able-bodied woman. This place is designed to protect people like me…

My privilege and I eventually wandered into the empty courtroom. It turned out that it was supposed to be locked, but before being kicked out I had the honor of connecting with three shiny people. Dion Dennis – an African American man in his forties who was a witness for the plaintiff and would continue testifying today on his experiences with stop & frisk; Officer Serrano – a Latino man who was also a witness for the plaintiff and would be testifying on his experiences in the NYPD; and Lillian – a 93yo white woman who had been “watching stop & frisk for years” from her home in the LES.

Why were we, this motley crew, all here? Because we believed that things were wrong, and they needed to change.

And we were joined in struggle by the notable number of ghosts in the room today. The trial for the shooting of Ramarley Graham – an 18yo black male who was killed, unarmed, by an NYPD officer in the bathroom of his grandmother’s apartment last winter – was occurring simultaneously in the Bronx. The black priest from Queens who was sitting next to me spoke of the passing of his wife last Christmas and how he was learning to balance his activism and community work with being a single father. And Nicholas Pert, who also took the stand as a plaintiff’s witness on his experiences with stop & frisk, was introduced as a 23yo African American man and an after-school facilitator and the legal guardian of his three young siblings following the passing of his mother from cancer several years ago.

And more:
The courtroom too felt like shark tank today. With an adolescent tone of disgust in her voice, the defense counsel tried desperately, and unsuccessfully, to tie rapid-fire questions around Serrano’s tongue and pull him into disrespect. Yet she did not even get his name correct when first approaching the witness, and was clearly both amusing and aggravating the spectators and Judge Scheindlin. If Tuesday was a shooting, today was a toy machine gun. When Serrano cried during his testimony one member of the defense team even stormed out the courtroom, muttering “sickening”.

I think it was at this point that I had a flashback to the defense team as they approached the courtroom this morning, in V-formation with matching roller suitcases. There is so much more going on in the courtroom than what makes it to the transcription. The role of sound and bodies and space, is huge. Those of us who were packing the court were building to a sort of agitation mixed with disbelief at how outrageous, twisted, and explicit the evidence and the legal process were. Even if this is not what makes it into the transcription that weaves the thread of common law. It also forms the visual and affective backdrop to the view from where the judge is sitting.

Before I close, I want to stress the importance of judicial appointments. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin was nominated to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton on July 28, 1994. She has already issued rulings on a case related to the one in front of her. When she spoke about the previous case in the Bronx, she said:
For those of us who do not fear being stopped as we approach or leave our own homes or those of friends and families, it is difficult to believe that residents of one of our boroughs live under such a threat.
Judicial appointments have consequences. In this case, a judge is on the bench who is not likely to rubber stamp testimony from police officials.

The stop-and-frisk trial will continue for the next six to eight weeks.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers are again in mourning for a young man killed by police officers.

R.I.P. Kimani Gray.

We also have not forgotten Ramarley Graham.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 09:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges, Black Kos community, LatinoKos, DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform, RaceGender DiscrimiNATION, and Police Accountability Group.

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