New York City Council Hears Dangers Caused by NYPD Controversial Stop and Frisk Policy
William Gibney

The Legal Aid Society and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund presented testimony before the New York City Council on September 28 on the NYPD's controversial stop and frisk policy. The Legal Aid Society, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, filed a federal class action lawsuit in January against the NYPD and the New York City Housing Authority charging that public housing tenants and their visitors are subjected to police aggression and unwarranted trespass arrests.

Download the testimony (PDF).

The New York Times
September 28, 2010
At Council Hearing on Stop-and-Frisk Policy, the Police Stay Silent
By Ray Rivera

A City Council hearing on the New York Police Department’s use of its controversial “stop, question and frisk” policy in public housing became a one-sided affair on Tuesday, after police and housing officials declined to testify.

Officials with both agencies cited pending federal litigation surrounding the policy in deciding not to appear. The officials said they had intended to testify when the hearing was to examine a wide range of policing initiatives in New York City Housing Authority developments.

But on Sept. 20, the Police Department was notified by Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn’s office by telephone that the hearing would be restricted to questions on the stop, question and frisk policy, and that broader questions of safety would be addressed at a separate hearing, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.

“We were told then,” Mr. Browne said, “that the speaker understood that the N.Y.P.D. wouldn’t be able to participate at a hearing devoted strictly to a matter being litigated.”

The explanation failed to satisfy Ms. Quinn and other council members, who were critical of both agencies but who focused their pique on the police. The anger reflected long-running frustration between some on the Council and the department over its stop, question and frisk policy.

The Police Department and the Housing Authority had observers present at the hearing, which lasted several hours as housing residents, lawyers and advocates, one after the other, blasted both agencies. One housing tenant from Manhattan, Marquis Jenkins, 27, said getting stopped had become a sort of “rite of passage” for young men of color growing up in the developments.

The policy, which the department has increasingly turned to in recent years as a core part of its crime deterrent strategy, allows officers to temporarily detain anyone they believe may be engaging in criminal activity, and to conduct a search if the person is believed to be carrying a weapon. Police officials also declined to appear at a similar council hearing in April 2009, Council officials said.

In a sharply worded letter to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly on Tuesday, Ms. Quinn criticized him for “yet again” failing to testify about stop and frisk.

“Your failure to appear and answer these questions only reinforces some of the worst suspicions critics of the department hold,” wrote Ms. Quinn, who has generally supported the department’s stop-and-frisk policy.

Ms. Quinn said the hearing was to include stop-and-frisk and other initiatives. But once it became clear police and housing officials would not discuss stop and frisks, she decided to split it into two hearings to give the other broader initiatives a fair discussion.

A federal class-action lawsuit filed against the police and the Housing Authority in January claims that public housing tenants and their visitors are subjected to police aggression and unwarranted trespass arrests. The lawsuit was filed by the Legal Aid Society, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

A separate lawsuit filed in 2008 by the Center for Constitutional Rights accuses the department of engaging in racial profiling and baseless stop and frisks.

Councilman Jumaane D. Williams of Brooklyn described the Police Department’s failure to appear as disrespectful. “Lawsuit or not, we’ve had other testimony when litigation is pending,” he said.

Mr. Browne called the criticisms “disingenuous in the extreme and a sop to plaintiffs’ lawyers,” because the Council knew the department was prepared to testify about other initiatives until the hearing’s scope was narrowed. The department did send a letter to the Council on Monday outlining public safety initiatives it has undertaken in public housing, including changes to the Patrol Guide regarding how officers patrol public housing buildings and when to conduct stop and frisks inside them.