A second officer was also expected to testify. Audio tapes from a third officer, Adrian Schoolcraft, will also be played. Schoolcraft was hauled off to a psych ward against his will by his superiors, he says, because he was exposing bad police work. His is suspended without pay.
Their testimony comes in the first week of the case, after four men spoke about their experiences being stopped by police — they say because of their race. The men are black. One, Nicholas Peart, wept on the stand describing a 2011 incident in which he was handcuffed near his home while an officer took his keys and went inside his building.
City lawyers sought to discredit witnesses by suggesting their stories had evolved to become more dramatic and their memories were faulty. In each case the men could not some recall specific details or revised what they had said in earlier statements.
The trial is seeking to reform the practice of stop, question and frisk, a law enforcement tactic that has gained traction in the past decade as crime has plummeted. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that minorities are disproportionately stopped.
The mayor and police commissioner say stop and frisk is a life-saving, crime-stopping tool that has helped drive crime down to record lows. Officers have more than 23 million contacts with the public, make 4 million radio runs and issue more than 500,000 summonses every year. Comparatively, 600,000 stops annually are not unreasonable, city lawyers said.
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin, who has already said in earlier rulings that she is deeply concerned about the tactic, has the power to order reforms to how it is used, which could bring major changes to the nation’s largest police force and other departments.
City lawyers said the department already has many checks and balances, including an independent watchdog group that was recently given authority to prosecute some excessive force complaints against police. The police commissioner still has the final say on whether officers are disciplined.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who announced the pact on installing an inspector general, said talks were progressing on three companion proposals to set new rules surrounding stop and frisk, including expanding protections against racial profiling.
Proposed last year, the inspector general and stop-and-frisk measures have become enmeshed in the politics of the city’s mayoral campaign. Quinn, a leading Democratic candidate, has faced pressure from civil rights and minority advocates and from some of her rivals to get the measures passed.