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Stop-and-frisk trial ends with questions

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 6/13/2013, 12:06 p.m.

As the heavily watched, 10-week stop-and-frisk trial comes to a close, both sides gave their closing arguments this week as to why the judge should rule in their favor.

After all the testimony from police officers, experts, those who have been stopped and frisked and even elected officials, the time has come for U.S District Judge Shira Scheindlin to decide if the controversial practice should be modified.

The city presented their closing argument first. They began with a defense of "productivity goals" and their insistence that these are different than quotas. Attorneys said, in labor management terms, that the goals are needed to make sure "officers are out there doing what they're paid to do."

Going through all the witnesses who took the stand who claimed they were stopped and frisked by the police, the city explained each stop and why they happened. In many cases, they explained that officers thought those they stopped had guns and were exhibiting behavior making it seem like they did. Things like pulling pants in a way that appeared as if witnesses had weapons and even a witness' previous lawsuits with the U.S. Postal Service over discrimination were listed as means for lacking credibility.

Scheindlin questioned whether any of the stops resulted in an arrest or the recovery of a gun. She also questioned statistical data that states that the majority of those stopped are Black and Latino.

"So there were no guns found on any of these people?" Scheindlin asked.

"No, and thankfully," the city's attorney said.

Jonathan Moore, co-counsel from Beldock, Levine & Hoffman, wrapped up the plaintiffs' case. He discussed how the city has not righted the problem despite knowing about it since 1999. Moore argued that in order to remedy practices by the police, the process needs to be one where community groups come to the table to help craft a holistic remedy.

Moore noted that Commissioner Ray Kelly had recently commented on the subject of stop-and-frisk that the NYPD needs to be "preventers" rather than "first responders." In terms of making quotas, Moore said that even if supervisors didn't use the word, officers understood that they were being asked to make numbers. He also identified the problem as one of pressure on officers.

Scheindlin said on Monday that she would make a "prompt decision."

Meanwhile, as the historic Floyd v. City of New York case comes to an end, a Quinnipiac poll reveals that city residents not only oppose stop-and-frisk, but say it will also help determine how they will vote for mayor.

Numbers indicate that voters would be less likely to vote for a mayoral candidate who would continue stop-and-frisk and are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports creating a position of inspector general to independently monitor the Police Department.

Close to 40 percent of voters said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who supports stop-and-frisk and 30 percent said they were most likely to support one who does. Thirty percent said it would not affect their decision.

"It's clear that New Yorkers understand that stop-and-frisk and a Police Department that polices itself don't keep us safe," said Joo-Hyun Kang, a spokesperson from Communities United for Police Reform. "That's why New Yorkers want a mayor who will implement an independent inspector general and stop discriminatory policing practices like stop-and-frisk."