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Revelations From Behind the Blue Wall of Silence

Alina Mogilyanskaya Apr 30

Now in its second month, Floyd v. City of New York is being argued in the Southern District of New York Courthouse, located just steps from One Police Plaza in downtown Manhattan. Brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the class-action lawsuit alleges that the NYPD violated the Constitution's 4th and 14th Amendments and the 1964 Civil Rights Act by routinely stopping and frisking black and Latino New Yorkers based on their skin color. The number of stop-and-frisks hit a record high of 685,724 under the Bloomberg administration in 2011, and almost 90 percent of those stopped in the last several years were black or Latino.

Here are some of the most eye-opening revelations to date:

NYPD COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY VIEWS STOP-AND-FRISK AS A FEAR TACTIC

State Senator Eric Adams, a 22-year veteran of the NYPD, testified that he raised concerns about the "disproportionate" number of young black and Latino men stopped by police during a July 2010 meeting with Governor David Paterson and other officials. Among those present was Ray Kelly, who, according to Adams, responded "that he targeted or focused on that group because he wanted to instill fear in them, every time they leave their home, they could be stopped by the police."

"I was shocked to hear that, and I told him that that was illegal, and that's not what the stop and frisk was supposed to be used for, and that's not what the law allows it to be used for," Adams testified. He added that Kelly's response was, "How else will we get rid of guns?"

POLICE OFFICERS ARE FORCED BY THEIR SUPERIORS TO MEET QUOTAS, EVEN IF IT MEANS MAKING UNWARRANTED STOPS

Among the first witnesses called to testify were NYPD whistleblowers Pedro Serrano and Adhyl Polanco, who secretly recorded supervisors demanding that officers issue 20 summonses, conduct five stop-and-frisks — known as "250s" — and make one arrest per month.

"We were handcuffing kids for no reason," Polanco testified about his time working in the South Bronx's 41st Precinct.

Serrano, who worked in South Bronx's 40th Precinct, recorded a superior telling him to find "the right people at the right time, the right location." When pressed by Serrano to clarify who these "right people" were, he said, "I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21."

Polanco and Serrano described a culture of intimidation in which superiors retaliated against officers who failed to meet or spoke out about quotas. Polanco testified that supervisors would make sure he met quotas by riding with him in the police car and identifying people to stop, or calling him to respond to incidents he didn't observe. "Sometimes they have male in handcuffs, and they will call for us to — obviously, we were not there — to come either issue the summons, issue the 250, or even arrest the person," he testified.

NYPD COMMANDING OFFICER ADMITS TO SETTING QUOTAS, LEGALIZED IN THE NAME OF "PERFORMANCE GOALS"

Deputy Chief Michael Marino of East New York's 75th Precinct testified that when he became Commanding Officer of the precinct in 2002, he set "performance goals" or "standards" of 10 summonses and one arrest per month. Marino justified his action by indicating that, "As per an administrative guide that was present at the time, I set the standards as was mandated to me by the police department."

He was asked, "And that was a quota, right?" "No."

"You call it a performance goal?" "Yes."

Quotas for the NYPD are illegal under New York labor law, but the city maintains that "performance goals" that do not include punishments for officers who fail to meet them are not.

Marino testified that upon entering the 75th Precinct, he learned that "the 400 or so officers assigned to patrol all saw exactly five summonses every month, no more, no less." He added, "It told me that they had set their own quota."

NYPD ELIDES THE FACTS

In 2007, the NYPD's Office of Management Analysis and Planning commissioned a study by the RAND Corporation to evaluate if the department's execution of stop-and-frisk was driven by racial bias.

Testimony at the trial suggests that the NYPD pressured the report's authors to take the edge off some of their original language. Terry Riley, who oversaw the project on behalf of the NYPD, testified that under the terms of their contract the RAND Corporation had agreed to take the NYPD's concerns "into consideration."

The NYPD did bring up concerns about early drafts, and some of the department's comments led to changes to the final report. In the first draft, the authors wrote of "disturbing evidence of unequal treatment across race groups." After the NYPD raised objections, that phrase was altered to say that there was "some evidence" of such unequal treatment. In another early draft, RAND asked, "Is the value of one arrest worth the cost of nine stops of innocent pedestrians?" Following further comments by the police department, the words "innocent pedestrians" appeared in the final draft as "suspects who committed no crime."