‘Remedy’ Witness Takes Stand in Street Stop Case

     MANHATTAN (CN) – An accountability expert described a possible way to reform New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy as the evidence phase in a trial on the issue wound down Wednesday.
     U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who is deciding the case without a jury, has heard roughly two months worth of evidence about whether the city has allowed police to trample on the constitutional rights of blacks and Latinos.
     Under the Supreme Court’s decision in Terry v. Ohio, police cannot stop and search a suspect without reasonable suspicion that he is about to commit, is committing or has committed a crime.
     David Floyd and three other black men, who filed the class action five years ago, claim that the city regularly frisks based on racial profiling. They have presented NYPD data showing that only a sliver, 12 percent, of those targeted for stops were white.
     Late Wednesday marked the beginning of the end for testimonial evidence.
     The last two witnesses, one representing the challengers and the other the city, are testifying about what reforms the judge should order if she finds the police in violation of the Constitution.
     Up first was Samuel Walker, an emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and author of 14 books related to policing and police accountability. He has acted as a consulted for the Chicago Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Phoenix Police Department and other law-enforcement agencies.
     Since retiring as a professor, he said he largely has stepped aside from offering expert testimony to spend time writing a new book, but agreed to testify for Floyd pro bono because “this is an extremely important case.”
     “The outcome of this case will have enormous national ramifications,” Walker said.
     He framed the issue as an evolution in the law profession that began with the idea to hold police to codified standards.
     “There was a time when it was considered a great [development] to have written standards,” he said.
     The next step, he said, was the creation of an auditing system.
     In 2003, the NYPD agreed to institute a series of written reforms aimed to audit street stops in the case of Daniels v. The City of New York, a case filed weeks after the police killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant. The settlement in that case included instructions on how police would record all stops on forms known as UF-250s, cataloguing the basis for reasonable suspicion.
     But Walker said that the form didn’t have leave police room to describe the circumstances that justified the stops.
     Walker will continue his testimony on Thursday, and former National Institute of Justice director James Stewart will be called to deny the need for reform.
     Meanwhile, a leak of an internal document from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office to the New York Daily News suggests that the city is preparing for Judge Scheindlin to rule against it, and has been characterizing her as biased against police.
     The mayor’s “study,” as the tabloid described it, analyzed Scheindlin’s written opinions on “search-and-seizure” issues and found that 60 percent of those rulings were unfavorable to the NYPD.
     The Daily News reported that the study ranked that percentage as the highest of any other federal judge on the Manhattan bench.
     Calling the study “completely misleading,” Scheindlin told the paper that the mayor’s study only accounted for her written opinions and ignored her bench rulings, “nearly all” of which favored the city.
     Only one of the rulings the city cited as evidence of bias was reversed on appeal.
     At a press conference, Center for Constitutional Rights senior staff attorney Darius Charney called the mayor’s study “despicable.”
     “I’ve heard some ridiculous, outrageous accusations from the city over the years, but this is the most ridiculous one I ever heard,” said Charney, who represents the stop-and-frisk challengers. “They are blatantly, deliberately trying to influence the outcome of the trial that they are a party to, and they are trying to do it through the press, and they’re trying to do it through baseless accusations.”

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