By Charisma L. Miller
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As the lawsuit against the New York Police Department proceeds in a Manhattan federal courthouse, Brooklyn elected officials and community members came out yesterday to speak out against the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy.
The press conference and rally took place in front of the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street in Downtown Manhattan. Brooklyn Council members Jumaane Williams, Letitia James, Brad Lander and Stephen Levin were slated to attend. A number of elected officials were not present due to previously scheduled budget meetings.
Police have made about 5 million stops during the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men. Lawyer Darius Charney of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the suit in 2008 on behalf of medical student David Floyd and three others, called many of the stops a "frightening and degrading experience" that violates the civil rights of many New Yorkers.
The class-action lawsuit, Floyd vs the City of New York, seeks broad reforms to the practice, and asks for a court-appointed monitor to oversee the changes.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a candidate for mayor, spoke at Tuesday’s rally and pointed to past failures to establish oversight over the NYPD. De Blasio called for broad subpoena powers to ensure the success of an inspector general, demanding “an Inspector General with teeth.”
Lander has co-sponsored legislation to increase the powers of an inspector general’s oversight over the NYPD.
Williams has previously spoken out in support of the lawsuit. “I thank Judge [Shira] Scheindlin for standing up to the abuses of the stop, question and frisk tactic and standing up for the residents … who have been unfairly targeted and unjustly arrested.”
For James, “Floyd vs. the City of New York represents the frustration and humiliation of thousands of New Yorkers who have been approached by police in suspicion-less stops.”
The trial, in its third day, has elicited testimony from victims of the stop-and-frisk policy. Officers frisked Floyd, a named plaintiff in the suit, outside his apartment as he helped a neighbor locked out of his home.
"I am not a criminal. I did not commit any criminal acts," said Floyd.
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. On Monday, city lawyers said 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, they said.
"The New York Police Department is fully committed to policing within the boundaries of the law," said Heidi Grossman, an attorney for the city. "Crime is not distributed evenly across the city."
That explanation was not enough for James. “Under this administration, the dramatic increase in the application of stop-and-frisk has needlessly redirected necessary police forces and resources,” James said. “It is my hope that the findings in this case serve as a notice to the incoming administration that elected officials, advocates and communities of color cry out for a protocol that respects the rights of all.”