Brooklyn elected officials gathered outside a Manhattan courthouse Tuesday to express their support for a federal lawsuit against the New York Police Department's controversial stop, question and frisk policy, saying the practice is discriminatory and needs to be ended if police accountability is to improve.
The class action suit— Floyd v. City of New York — accuses the NYPD of violating hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers' constitutional rights on an extensive, systemic basis.
"The Floyd trial gives hope to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who feel their voices have been stifled by unjust policing practices and the City that supports them," said Councilman Jumaane Williams, D-45, in front of 500 Pearl St.
"Stop, question and frisk is not only discriminating against historically disenfranchised communities like mine, it is simply not correlating with any positive improvement in our public safety," he continued. "The anger in our neighborhoods is real, being witnessed in real time, and change is long overdue. Justice in this case will result in better policing and safer streets for all."
The lawsuit, brought on by several New Yorkers and the Center for Constitutional Rights, alleges the stop-and-frisk policy is based on racial profiling and challenges suspicion-less stop-and-frisks violate the Constitution’s protections against racial discrimination and unreasonable searches and seizures.
"Floyd v. the City of New York represents the frustration and humiliation of thousands of New Yorkers who have been approached by police in suspicion-less stops," Councilwoman Letitia James, D-35, said.
“Under this administration, the dramatic increase in the application of stop-and-frisk has needlessly redirected necessary police forces and resources," she continued. "It is my hope that the findings in this case serve as a notice to the incoming administration that elected officials, advocates, and communities of color cry out for a protocol that respects the rights of all.”
Brooklyn experiences more stop-and-frisks than any other borough in the city. According to the NYPD’s data, more than 225,000 – a quarter of a million – stops were made in Brooklyn in 2011 alone.
"Commissioner Kelly always tries to downplay the number of stops police make, but it goes on 24/7 in my community," said Aaron Henton, a 28-year-old African-American community activist and VOCAL-NY member from East New York who has been stopped more than 30 times by the police.
“The police always tell me I 'fit the description' for this or that crime, but I guess to them we all look alike," Henton said. "I work with youth and try to set an example for them, so it makes me wonder how much they must be going through if someone like me in the community is being stopped this often. The time has come to end this injustice before it ruins another generation's relationship with the police.”
Stop-and-frisk practices have been long-criticized and rejected as a violation of the basic civil rights of New Yorkers, particularly those of communities of color.
"We all need our communities and our families to be safe, but we cannot make them safe by denying the fundamental civil rights of our neighbors," said Councilman Brad Lander, D-39. “African-American and Latino young men have just as much right to walk down the street without being stopped by the NYPD as the rest of us. Yet even in Park Slope, 79 percent of stop-and-frisks target people of color. And Muslim New Yorkers have just as much right to pray without fear of undercover NYPD surveillance as the rest of us. The time has come to end discriminatory policing.”
Councilman Steve Levin, D-33, agreed, saying the policy is diminishing trust between Brooklyn communities and law enforcement. "New York City cannot tolerate a policy that violates the rights of its citizens," he said.
Critics of the policy note that the 600 percent increase in stop-and-frisks between 2002 and 2011 in New York City, the number of gun violence victims has remained at nearly the same level.