State Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) is a former police captain himself who spoke out on racial issues as founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement.
But Monday, he testified that police commissioner Ray Kelly is using stop-and-frisk tactics in a discriminatory manner designed to put fear of being stopped by cops into young blacks and Hispanics.
“I believe that in his heart, he has the best intention of New Yorkers. I believe all of us are traumatized after September 11th, all of us are traumatized by the number of guns in the street. I think he’s used the wrong method,” Adams told reporters including WCBS 880′s Irene Cornell.
Adams, testifying at a trial over how police stop, question and sometimes frisk people in public, detailed his interpretation of comments made by Police Commissioner Kelly during a 2010 meeting with then-Gov. David Paterson and other lawmakers.
Adams has been a vocal critic of the policy, and believes it unfairly targets minorities. He represents areas of Brooklyn where a large percentage of the nearly five million stops have occurred during the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men.
Adams said he asked Kelly why a “disproportionate” number of blacks and Hispanics were stopped. Kelly said that officers focused on that group of people “because he wanted to instill fear in them that every time they left home they could be targeted by police,” according to Adams.
“First of all I was amazed that he was comfortable enough to say that,” Adams said Monday. “I told him that was illegal and that was not what stop and frisk was supposed to be used for.”
Kelly said Monday it was “ludicrous” to think he would tell lawmakers that police were making stops based on race.
“I categorically and absolutely deny ever making such a statement,” he said. “It defies anyone’s logic.”
Kelly suggested Adams’ account was a ploy to goad him into testifying. He again said that he has no intention of taking the stand.
“I think this was an attempt to get me to testify; to make an outrageous statement that I would have to go to court and defend,” Kelly said. “Well, I’m defending it now. I’m telling you it’s absolutely untrue.”
Adams has spoken publicly about the comments before and filed a written statement on the encounter for the bench trial being heard by U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin. Kelly also filed a statement.
“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. That has not been or is it now the policy or practice of the NYPD,” Kelly wrote. “Furthermore, I said nothing at the meeting to indicate or imply that such activity is based on anything but reasonable suspicion.”
Kelly said he did say the tactic serves as a crime deterrent.
Lawyers for the city sought to show that Adams’ recollection of the conversation was flawed. He has no written account and has repeated the claims several times, but varied the statements.
Lawyers for four men who sued the police over the department policy suggest the encounter is critical, because it shows that orders to wrongfully stop men come from the top. Outside court, Adams said he believes officers do not want to make wrongful stops, and that the policy is turning the public against the police.
“It makes the bad guys afraid, but it makes the 90 percent of people who do nothing wrong afraid,” Adams said.
Adams said the fact that he’s opposed to traumatizing innocent children doesn’t mean he is soft on crime.
“I’m an extremely hard liner on crime. If you commit crimes, you should go to jail. But children, over 90 percent of those children did nothing wrong at all. I don’t think we can get away from that – nothing,” said Adams.
The class-action suit seeks broad reforms to the tactic. While the trial plays out in court, the issue is reverberating through city politics and this year’s mayoral race.
After months of limbo on proposals to set new rules for the stops and create an inspector general for the police department, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn – who’s also a leading Democratic mayoral candidate – announced that she had reached the outlines of an agreement on the independent monitor with the idea’s advocates. Quinn’s office released a letter Monday from three of the city’s former chief lawyers supporting the inspector general proposal.
Other Democratic, Republican and independent mayoral candidates are split on the idea. One, Republican Joseph Lhota, held a news conference Monday to denounce it as a “dangerous” intrusion on the police commissioner’s authority to set police policy, which supporters deny.
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