By Graham Rayman (Village Voice)
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has served the city for 11 years. Mayor Bloomberg is in the final year of his third term. Next week, the legacies of both men will be tested in a major trial starting Monday over the city's stop and frisk campaign.
The case is a class action lawsuit filed in 2008 called Floyd vs. the City of New York, which alleges that the NYPD's stop and frisk campaign violated the civil rights of hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic New Yorkers.
Central to the plaintiff's case will be digital recordings made by Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft in Bed-Stuy's 81st Precinct on 2008 and 2009, and first revealed in the Voice's award-winning 2010 series "The NYPD Tapes." And two surprise witnesses from the Schoolcraft saga are expected to testify as hostile witnesses.
The stop and frisk campaign has been one of Commissioner Kelly's signature strategies. The number of stops skyrocketed under his watch, as did the allegations of civil rights violations. But both he and Bloomberg have stubbornly defended it in the face of the criticism, basically by insisting that the number of stops follow trends in crime.
Lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is financing the litigation, allege that many of the stops took place without reasonable suspicion of a crime. Blacks and Latinos make up 52 percent of the population, but 90 percent of the stops.
If the city loses the trial, it would be a strong rebuke of the strategy, and could lead the court to appoint a monitor to oversee the NYPD--a move that would be unprecedented. Such a setback would tarnish Bloomberg's legacy and make sure that Kelly will not continue as PC after Mayor Mike is gone.
The Schoolcraft recordings captured police bosses ordering cops to do stop and frisks to make their quotas. The tapes place in sharp relief that the vast rise in stops was caused more by pressure from police commanders emanating from headquarters for officers to hit their unwritten quotas than some direct racial bias. In addition, the sharp rise is also explained by better record keeping, spurred by the fact that the number of stops became a number that the NYPD tracked to assess how well a precinct was doing its job.
Schoolcraft has alleged that he had witnessed officers filling out fake--or "ghost"--stop and frisk forms, just to make the quota. On Oct. 31, 2009, three weeks after he reported a range of misconduct in his precinct to investigators, he was dragged from his apartment by police commanders and forced into the Jamaica Hospital psychiatric ward. Schoolcraft has filed a lawsuit which alleges his commanders retaliated against him for reporting downgrading of crimes, the existence of quotas, a lack of training and other issues.
Two of the central characters in the Schoolcraft saga are expected to testify as hostile witnesses: His precinct commander, Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, and the former No. 2 commander in Brooklyn North borough command, Deputy Chief Michael Marino.
Mauriello was transferred to the Bronx transit command and charged departmentally with refusing to take a crime complaint back in July, 2010, following an investigation by the NYPD's Quality Assurance Division. Since then, a period of 33 months, his disciplinary case has sat open with no end in sight.
Marino was transferred to a command in Staten Island after he was caught threatening cops to make their quotas. Marino was the person who ordered Schoolcraft take to the psychiatric ward. He has not been charged with any misconduct.
Also expected to testify is Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, who is Kelly's spokesman, top aide, and a constant defender of the stop and frisk campaign.
And Adhyll Polanco will testify as well. Polanco was a cop in a precinct in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx who began objecting to the constant pressure for stops of young men of color from his commanders. He has his own lawsuit in which he alleges his bosses retaliated against him for refusing to make the quota.
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