NEW YORK (AP) — The federal civil rights challenge to the contentious New York Police Department tactic of stop, question and frisk is winding down after more than nine weeks of testimony from men who say they were wrongly stopped because of their race and police officials who believe the nation’s largest force operates with integrity.
City attorney Heidi Grossman said during summations Monday that there is “no indication of racial motivation whatsoever” in the practice.
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin must eventually examine more than 7,000 pages of trial record and may order major changes to the policy, reforms that could have a nationwide impact on how police departments operate.
More than 5 million stops have been made in New York in the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men. Police must have reasonable suspicion to stop someone, a standard lower than probable cause needed to justify an arrest. Only about 10 percent result in arrests.
About a dozen black and Hispanic men told the judge of disturbing and uncomfortable encounters with police that left them feeling confused, angry and scared. One witness, 24-year-old Nicholas Peart from Harlem, wept on the stand as he described how he was handcuffed and put into the back of a squad car. A teenager told how he was stopped walking down the street. In each instance, the witnesses said they could find no basis for the stops other than they were minorities. But many of the officers who did the stopping also explained their legal reasoning.
Lawyers for the men who sued police say officers are making illegal stops in part because they felt pressure from superiors instituting illegal quotas. Some officers testified said they were punished for not making enough stops and were harassed by fellow officers upset they had blown the whistle. Yet others said no quotas existed and they never felt pressure to make a stop.