Four black men testified Monday and Tuesday about their experiences being stopped by police — they say because of their race.
There have been about 5 million stops made by police in the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men. Lawyers with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the four plaintiffs, are seeking to reform the tactic, which gained traction in the past decade.
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. New York City saw the fewest number of murders in 2012 since comparable record keeping in the 1960s, and other major crimes are down to record lows, too. City officials say criminals are keeping their guns at home.
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 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 force and other departments.
On Tuesday, the second day of the trial that is expected to last weeks, city lawmakers announced that they had reached an agreement to install an inspector general for the NYPD — an issue raised last year amid mass demonstrations against stop and frisk and a series of stories by The Associated Press that detailed police monitoring of Muslims. A vote was expected in the coming weeks. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would veto the proposal.
Bloomberg, city lawyers and police officials said the department has enough oversight, including an independent watchdog group, a 700-person Internal Affairs Bureau, a police corruption commission, prosecutors and judges.
It’s not clear whether the proposal for an inspector general would affect what changes the judge may order.