NYPD on Trial: Week 5

Last week, the court heard some of the most dramatic testimony yet from New Yorkers who have been illegally stopped and frisked by the NYPD. In a packed schedule, it also heard from officers who conducted stops; various supervisors and officials throughout the system whose testimony made clear that no one is adequately reviewing stops to ensure they are constitutional; and two officials involved in the release of the NYPD’s RAND report on racial profiling in the department.

CCR witnesses recounted stops that highlighted exactly why this trial challenging unconstitutional stops and frisks is so important: Clive Lino and a friend, waiting for a take-out order outside a Chinese restaurant, stopped and frisked when officers deemed Lino’s entering the restaurant a “furtive movement”…Cornelio McDonald, stopped and frisked on his way home from his mother’s house…Leroy Downs, sitting on his stoop and talking on the phone, pushed up against a fence, frisked and searched…David Ourlicht, standing outside with a friend on a smoke break, stopped by cops with guns drawn…

Several integrity control officers from precincts where CCR witnesses had been stopped testified. None of them could demonstrate any real effort to ensure that stops were being lawfully conducted. One admitted he never discussed racial profiling with anyone at his precinct. The court also heard from the head of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, who admitted that a majority of cases it gets are not fully investigated and that a significant number of its substantiated complaints result from stops and frisks, and the head of Investigation Review office for the NYPD, who said that her office categorizes racial profiling and stop-and-frisk complaints under “general dissatisfaction” and that its review of investigated complaints consists solely of reviewing the forms filed to document the investigation. As in previous weeks, the picture that emerged is one of no one at the NYPD in engaging in meaningful review to ensure that stops are carried out in compliance with the Constitution.

Two officials from the Office of Management Analysis and Planning testified about the 2007 report commissioned by the NYPD from the RAND Corporation about racial profiling in its stop-and-frisk practices. Questioning by CCR’s lead attorney, Darius Charney, revealed that the NYPD had pushed for language changes in the draft report that softened its assessment, relied on a methodology that was criticized by one of its own expert reviewers, and failed to implement its recommendations.

The plaintiffs’ case will rest this week, and the city will begin its case. The courtroom continues to be packed every day by affected community members and other members of the public, press interest remains strong, and CCR continues to publish a daily account of the day’s proceedings.

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