By LORETTA CHIN AND JULIA JOHN-SCHEDER
Self-Published on March 21, 2013 and reported on the WBCR Radio Sex and Politics show on 1090am.
Tears from an alleged victim in the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy trial and surprising revelations from a police officer were a part of witness testimony in Manhattan Federal Court on Tuesday, day two of the class-action lawsuit in the trial of Floyd v. City of New York.
Nicholas Peart, 24, who has an associate’s degree from the Borough of Manhattan Community College and works in an after school program through a non-profit organization, was stopped and frisked on four separate occasions. He broke down on the stand and sobbed into his open palm as he testified about one of the incidents that happened in April 2011 in Harlem.
Peart’s voice softened as he slowed his speech and paused between sentences during the emotionally charged recollection of his experience. “I felt criminalized,” he said. “I felt degraded.. I had never been in handcuffs..I never had that happen to me before–to be treated like that from someone who worked for New York City… I felt helpless.”
According to Peart’s testimony, he was texting on his phone and walking to the corner store from his house on 144th Street and Lenox Avenue at around 11 p.m. to buy milk when two officers stopped and frisked him. “One of the officers took my cell phone and they told me to put my hands up against the wall,” he said. He described the officers as “harsh” and said that one officer grabbed his sweatshirt in the middle of his chest and balled it up in his fist.
Peart testified that they proceeded to take his phone, keys, wallet and ID card before placing him handcuffed in the back of an unmarked car; they then removed his sneakers to check for drugs. His mother died two years ago from cancer and Peart was appointed the legal guardian for his two little brothers and a 20-year-old sister who has a learning disability. He was afraid of what would happen if the officers found out that he had kids in the house and there wasn’t anybody there. Peart was eventually released from custody, but was given no explanation for why he was stopped.
The city’s lawyer, Suzanna Publicker, questioned Peart repeatedly to determine if he recalled details of the different cases. Pearl testified that he was unable to recall certain information or gave conflicting accounts of previously recorded testimony played in court. He admitted that when he was 18-years-old, he lied to the Civilian Complaint Review Board when he told them that he cut his lip while being placed face down on the ground by officers. At the time, he testified that he did it to be taken seriously by them. She also questioned Peart about his strongly critical views about the police because of an essay he wrote in college and posts that he made on Facebook, which were briefly displayed in court.
David Floyd, 33, and Deon Dennis, 42 also testified that morning. “I have kids, younger kids, and I don’t want them to go through what I did for years,” Dennis said, as the reason for joining the lawsuit. Both were stopped and frisked without their permission, but the city’s lawyers tried to prove that some of the stops were justified because of the circumstances of their cases.
The final testimony of the day came from New York City Police Officer Adhyl Polanco who accused two sergeants, an inspector, two PBA delegates and his platoon commander of pressuring officers to meet productivity goals, which he said were really quotas. Polanco testified that it didn’t matter to his supervisors how many radio calls, domestic violence cases, juvenile crimes or calls for assistance were done.
“They will never question the quality, only the quantity,” he testified. “We were never asked if there was reasonable suspicion or probable cause.” Polanco said that the platoon of over two dozen police officers were told at roll call that they were required to produce 20 summonses, one arrest and at least five UF 250s (forms that officers fill out after a stop-and-frisk) per officer, per month. Not meeting the quota could result in being sent for re-training, losing days off and overtime. Polanco said that he was told by his sergeant, “Unless you want to be a Pizza Hut deliveryman, you better do it.” Polanco said that he started to record his conversations in summer 2009 because he thought that no one would believe it.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Raymond Kelly say that stop-and-frisk saves lives and lowers crime rates, especially in neighborhoods plagued by gun violence. Murder rates in the city are at an all-time low. Yet, blacks and Latinos constitute 84 percent of the stops, only 6 percent of the stops result in arrest, less than 1 percent of stops yield guns and less than 2 percent yield contraband, according to information on the Center for Constitutional Rights’ website.
The suit filed in 2008 asks District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin to create “a process for obtaining community input” to change the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices. Lawyers for the plaintiffs also want Scheindlin to appoint a monitor to ensure that the department’s policies comply with the U.S. Constitution.