The New York Police Department targets blacks and Hispanics for the city's controversial "stop and frisk" program to keep guns off the street, according to State Senator Eric Adams, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly condones it.
Testifying at a federal trial over how police stop, question and sometimes frisk people in public, the Brooklyn democrat detailed his interpretation of comments made by 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 the city where a large percentage of the nearly 5 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, every time they leave their home they could be stopped by the police," according to Adams.
"I was amazed that he was comfortable enough to say that," Adams said Monday. "I told him it 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 Adam's account was a ploy to goad him into testifying. He again said that he has no intention of taking the stand.
Adams, a retired NYPD captain, 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.
The class-action suit seeks broad reforms to the tactic.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.