An officer with the New York Police Department testified Tuesday that his superiors set quotas for arrests and stops in his precinct, and that those who did not meet them faced shift changes and a loss of overtime. Adhyl Polanco’s testimony may be the first major blow against the city in a case that could alter the way the NYPD polices minority communities.
Polanco, an eight-year veteran of the NYPD, alleged that he was instructed to issue 20 summonses, conduct five “stop-and-frisk” searches, and make at least one arrest each month. He has also claimed that he was targeted for retaliation for speaking out about the policy.
Representatives for the city have admitted to using “productivity goals” to motivate officers, but insist that such a system does not lead to civil rights abuses. The NYPD also argued that stop-and-frisk is not discriminatory because most of the crime that occurs in New York City takes place in minority neighborhoods. However, department statistics show that 88% of all stops end without an arrest and 87% of those stopped are either African-American or Latino. Police made more than 685,000 stops in 2011.
The federal class-action lawsuit Floyd v. City of New York, filed in 2008, alleges that the more than five million stops conducted by the NYPD violate the 4th and 14th Amendment rights of those targeted. The lawsuit seeks to “vindicate the people who have been stopped over [the years],” said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, on Saturday’s Melissa Harris-Perry.
A 2012 NYCLU report found that the NYPD performed more “stop-and-frisk” searches than there were African-American men residing in the city. Four young men also testified Tuesday in front of Judge Shira Scheindlen about their experiences being wrongly stopped by police; seven more men and one woman are also scheduled to be witnesses.
Opponents of the practice argue that the large number of stops and intrusive nature of the searches have left entire neighborhoods demoralized and suspicious of police.
“We’re talking about human beings not being treated as second class citizens in a first-class country,” New York State Senator Eric Adams said in the MHP discussion Sunday.