During a 2010 meeting, New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the city’s aggressive stop-and-frisk policy targeted so many young black and Latino men because “he wanted to instill fear in them, every time they leave their home they could be stopped by the police,” according to testimony by State Senator Eric Adams (D). Adams, a former NYPD captain, said the statement came during a private conversation Kelly had with Gov. David A. Patterson and Adams to discuss the stop-and-frisk tactic’s significance as a crime-fighting tool.
Kelly denied the allegation Monday, saying that Adams’ suggestion that he targets minorities is “absolutely, categorically untrue.” The New York Times reports:
The disagreement between Mr. Kelly and Senator Adams is nothing new; the senator has long criticized the department for what he says are unlawful street stops. But Mr. Adams usually issues his criticism at one of the various street-side news conferences that he has held over the years — not in federal court as the only elected official scheduled to testify at the trial.
Given Commissioner Kelly’s robust denial, it is unclear how the judge hearing the case, Shira A. Scheindlin, will interpret Senator Adams’s recollection of one comment. Still, the senator’s testimony served to underscore one of the trial’s central constitutional questions: Do the police conduct street stops only when they observe individuals behaving suspiciously, or are the police increasingly stopping people without justification, as a way to discourage criminals from carrying guns in the street? […]
Mr. Kelly, in his affidavit, noted that he told Governor Paterson and Senator Adams about “my view that stops serve as a deterrent to criminal activity, which includes the criminal possession of a weapon.”
In his affidavit, the commissioner observed, “I said nothing at the meeting to indicate or imply that such activity is based on anything but reasonable suspicion.”
Reasonable suspicion is the required constitutional standard for a police stop, and Judge Scheindlin has made clear that testimony about the effectiveness of the policy in reducing crime is not relevant to its constitutionality.
Adams’ testimony is the latest piece of damning evidence to come out of trial in a class action challenge to the New York Police Department’s rampant use of “stop and frisks,” a practice in which officers stop someone suspected of a crime, and may subsequently frisk that individual if they have justification for doing so. Last week, an officer testified that he was told to target young, black men, and others testified that the New York Police Department imposes quotas for stop-and-frisks. In 2011, NYPD made more stops of young black men than there are young black men in the city. And since Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002, 86 percent of people stopped have been black or Latino.