Legal Aid Participates In Stop And Frisk "Know Your Rights" Town Hall Programs; Legal Aid Staff Attorney Calls Illegal Stops "A Demoralizing Experience"
FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2013

Legal Aid staff participating in the Bronx Stop and Frisk Town Hall March 18 in the Latino Pastoral Center in Mount Eden urged young people to cooperate with police officers if they are stopped. After a Lehman College freshman described an encounter with police in which he was treated badly, Kevann Gardner, a Legal Aid Staff Attorney, called such stops "a demoralizing experience...It creates a distrust and a disconnect between young people and the police department."

The Legal Aid Society is co-sponsoring a series of "Stop and Frisk" Town Hall community education programs in all five boroughs with New York City Comptroller John Liu and a number of community-based organizations, marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright finding a right to counsel in criminal cases. The Legal Aid Society is participating in this initiative to provide "know your rights" information to adults and young people about the City's "stop and frisk" practices that result in wrongful arrests. The Legal Aid Society is challenging these City practices in law reform litigation aimed at ending unlawful marijuana arrests and the arrests of New York Housing Authority residents and their guests for allegedly trespassing in Housing Authority developments.

Controller Liu hosts stop and frisk forum for Bronx residents to discuss controversial tactic with experts Mayoral candidate, in first of borough forums, says practice should be ended, not mended
March 19, 2013
By Denis Slattery

Bronx residents, legal experts, and local clergy joined City Controller, and mayoral candidate, John Liu in blasting the NYPD's controversial stop and frisk tactic at a town hall-style meeting Monday.

The forum, which took place at the Latino Pastoral Center (LPC) in Mount Eden, was held the same day that opening arguments began in a federal class action lawsuit against the city that seeks to have the policy declared unconstitutional.

The lead plaintiff in the federal case, David Floyd, is a Bronx medical student.

"You can't deny that there is racial profiling going on," Liu told a supportive crowd at the LPC auditorium.

“And racial profiling has no place in our country, or in the city of New York.”

Liu, the only mayoral hopeful who has called for an outright end to stop and frisk, called the practice ineffective and divisive.

According to a report by the New York Civil Liberties Union, African-Americans and Latinos made up 90% of police stops last year. Of the 533,042 stops in 2012, only 11% resulted in arrests, according to the report.

“We don't need to mend stop and frisk, we need to end stop and frisk,” the controller told the audience, which included two dozen local youth. While the crowd at the LPC agreed, some in attendance had differing opinions as to how to deal with the police when stopped.

Retired NYPD detective Carlton Berkeley, who performed a mock stop and frisk in the auditorium, raised the ire of some residents after telling them it was their right to question police before consenting to a search.

“Never, never, give no one, especially the police, the right to search you,” Berkeley said.

But Legal Aid Society lawyer Kevann Gardner advised young people to cooperate.

Lehman College freshman Olusegun Williams, 19, said it wasn’t easy to speak up when confronted by police.

“It was embarrassing and I felt violated,” Williams said of an encounter he had with the cops when he was sixteen.

The Wakefield teen was returning home from a Rite Aid with medication for his mother when he was stopped by police. According to Williams, the officers tore through his bag and spilled the medication across the sidewalk.

“I couldn’t understand it because I had done nothing wrong,” Williams said.

Gardner called stops such as Williams’, "a demoralizing experience...It creates a distrust and a disconnect between young people and the police department."