Police officers acted appropriately in carrying out the city’s stop, question and frisk policy, and dozens of witnesses who claimed racial bias didn’t prove their case, a lawyer for the city told a judge Monday.
“They failed to show a single constitutional violation, much less a widespread pattern or practice,” city attorney Heidi Grossman said during her closing argument at a trial examining how the stops are conducted. She added there was “no indication of racial motivation whatsoever.”
Gretchen Hoff Varner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, disagreed, saying the police department “has laid siege to black and Latino neighborhoods over the last eight years … making people of color afraid to leave their homes.”
She said that blacks and Latinos make up a little more than 50 percent of the city population, but 85 percent of the people stopped by police as part of the tactic are black and Hispanic.
The summations followed more than nine weeks of testimony from men who say they were wrongly stopped because of their race and police officials who insisted the nation’s largest force operated with integrity.
The case is in the hands of U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin, who will rule after examining over 7,000 pages of trial record. She may order major changes to the policy, which could alter how police departments operate nationwide.
About a dozen black and Hispanic men told the judge of disturbing and uncomfortable encounters with police that left them feeling confused, angry and scared. They all said they could find no basis for the stops other than they were minorities. But many of the officers who did the stopping also explained their legal reasoning.
Grossman said the witnesses were “woefully lacking” considering that lawyers had years to find the best examples of people who said they were stopped because of their race.
“The alleged complaints of racial profiling are more fiction than reality,” she said. “It is not the NYPD’s policy to target black and Hispanic youth to instill fear in them so they feel they can be stopped at any time.”
The trial has provided a rare window into the NYPD, with about a dozen officials testifying on how they do their jobs. Officers are told to stop the “the right people, at the right time in the right location.”