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Street Stops Used for Fear, N.Y. Senator Says

MANHATTAN (CN) - A New York state senator kicked off the third week of a trial to reform street stops Monday by saying that the city adopted stop-and-frisk policies to "instill fear" in minority communities.

State Sen. Eric Adams, D-Brooklyn, had sworn to a similar statement in an affidavit before trial began in Floyd v. The City of New York, a class action filed by four black men who say they were targeted for racially discriminatory stops.

They want the NYPD to face court oversight so that police officers comply with the U.S. Constitution in conducting searches.

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.

Sen. Adams claimed, however, that the NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly replaced reasonable suspicion with race at a July 2010 meeting.

"Commissioner Kelly stated that the NYPD targets its stop-and-frisk activity at young black and Latino men because it wants to instill the belief in members of these two populations that they could be stopped and frisked every time they leave their homes so that they are less likely to carry weapons," Adams testified in his affidavit.

The NYPD chief allegedly made the statement to lobby against the signing of a bill that would abolish a database recording innocent people stopped by police.

Then-New York Gov. David Paterson signed a law on July 16, 2010.

Kelly denies the senator's depiction of their conversation.

"At that meeting I did not, nor would I ever, state or suggest that the New York City Police Department targets young black and Latino men for stop and frisk activity," Kelly swore in a reply affidavit.

He acknowledged, however, having justified street stops for their "deterrence" value.

City lawyer Heidi Grossman could not enter the statement into evidence because Kelly is not expected to take the stand.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said, "If he'd like to come here, he's welcome in this courtroom."

Her ruling makes the senator's account of the conversation undisputed in the record, unless the police chief chooses to testify.

Scheindlin is deciding the case without a jury.

Sen. Adams used his summary of Kelly's remarks on a Powerpoint presentation roughly two years after he says the conversation occurred.

The Powerpoint, published on his website in April 2012, shows a picture of Kelly next to the words: "We stop African American and Hispanic youths because we want to instill the fear in them that every time they leave their home, they can be stopped and searched by the police."

Though the words are attributed to "Commissioner Raymond Kelly," Adams acknowledged they are not a direct quote.

The senator insists that he recalls Kelly using the phrase "instill fear."

Grossman pointed out that Kelly's affidavit stated "instill the belief," and she said the senator wavered on whether he police "targeted" or "focused' on blacks and Latinos.

Jonathan Moore, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, deflated the distinction.

"You see much difference between 'target' and 'focus'?" he asked.

Adams replied that he did not.

Before his political career, Sen. Adams spent more than 20 years in the NYPD and retired after acquiring the rank of captain.

Moore noted that Adams has supported stops that meet the Terry requirements.

"You just want to see it's used properly?" Moore asked.

"Exactly," Adams replied.

The lawyer added, "In accordance with the Constitution?"

"Yes," the senator affirmed.

Earlier, Adams testified that many of his constituents complained about stops that did not fall under the reasonable suspicion standard.

Outside the courtroom, Courthouse News asked if any particular complaint stood out in his mind.

Adams replied by telling reporters about a group of young football players who entered his office.

They were "seven players, big brawny guys," he recounted.

After his young female staffer left the room, Adams said that two of these young men started crying telling him about police frisking them, including over their private areas, for guns.

"These were good kids," he said.

None of them had weapons, Adams said, adding that he did not blame individual officers for the incident.

"Cops hate this," Adams said, referring to stop-and-frisk policies. "Cops are so frustrated that they're wearing wires at roll call."

During the first week of trial, two Bronx police officers testified that they taped brass to expose street stop quotas. Recordings by a third officer, who did not testify, were also played in court.

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