Stop and Frisk: Expert shares experiences from the witness stand

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September 17th, 2013

Omaha, NE– Sam Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice, will share his experiences of being on the witness stand for the Stop and Frisk case today at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Samuel Walker is an expert on police accountability. He has published numerous books on criminal justice and civil liberties. (Photo Courtesy Samuel Walker)

Samuel Walker is an expert on police accountability. He has published numerous books on criminal justice and civil liberties. (Photo Courtesy Samuel Walker)

 

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Walker, who is an expert on police accountability, civil liberties and criminal justice policy, was asked to serve as an expert witness for the remedies phase based on his research and writings. Walker said many of the stops were unconstitutional because the police officers did not have reasonable suspicion to stop and detain people, and a pattern of racial profiling developed.

 

“The evidence in the trial was that the New York City Police Department had failed to properly train and supervise its police officers,” Walker said. “They were conducting unconstitutional stops and frisks in violation of both the fourth amendment and the fourteenth amendment.”

According to New York Civil Liberties Union, 97,296 New Yorkers were stopped by the police in 2002. Last year, 532,911 people were stopped by officers. Eighty-nine percent of those stopped in 2012 were innocent.  

Walker said it’s clear that the Stop and Frisk policy exhibited a pattern of harassment.

“The NYPD embarked on this very aggressive stop and frisk policy that reached a peak of over 600,000 in 2011,” Walker said. “It steadily increased the number of stops and frisks despite all of the controversy. Only 12 percent of the people who were stopped were either arrested or given a ticket.”

Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled against the NYPD’s unconstitutional use of the policy August 12. Walker describes Judge Scheindlin as very involved during his time on the stand. He said she would often intervene and ask important questions about the case in order to formulate a more informed opinion.

Walker said being on the stand is a delicate situation because everything said is becomes a part of the record and the smallest indiscretion could be used against you.

“It was very challenging, demanding, very intense and nerve-wracking, but it was incredibly rewarding to know that after decades of research and writing and attention to this issue that people involved in such an important case are aware of your work, they appreciate its value and they want you to be a part of the case,” Walker said.

Although crime rates in New York City have declined over the years, there is no clear evidence that stops and frisks deter crime, according to Walker. He said the real issue is changing attitudes and policies at the police department. Part of Judge Scheindlin’s order, recommended by Walker, is to have a court appointed monitor to ensure that the NYPD adopts the other parts of the accountability measure she’s ordered. This judicial monitor will have the full authority of a federal oversight judge and will have, in effect, veto power over the police department’s policies, practices and procedures related to “stop and frisk” searches.

The decision does not prevent the department from conducting stops and frisks, but they must do it in a constitutional manner, which is going to involve tremendous changes in training and supervision,” he said.  

Walker said the court has mandated changes in training, which include how stop and frisks forms are filled out and reviewed.

He said the ruling will establish a standard in this practice for the rest of the country.

“You cannot just engage in an uncontrolled policy that involves unconstitutional actions and results in racial profiling,” he said.  “It sends a very strong message to the country.”Professor Walker will present “On the Stand in New York City” in the College of Public Affairs and Community Service at UNO’s Dodge Campus from 3p.m.-5p.m.

 

 

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