Stop and Frisk: Expert shares experiences from the witness stand
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.
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.
â€œThe evidence in the trial was that the New York City Police Department had failed to properly train and supervise its police officers,â€ Walker said. â€œThey were conducting unconstitutional stops and frisks in violation of both the fourth amendment and the fourteenth amendment.â€
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. Â
Walker said itâ€™s clear that the Stop and Frisk policyÂ exhibited a pattern of harassment.
â€œThe NYPD embarked on this very aggressive stop and frisk policy that reached a peak of over 600,000 in 2011,â€ Walker said. â€œIt 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.â€
Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled against the NYPDâ€™s unconstitutional use of the policy August 12. Walker describes Judge Scheindlin as veryÂ involved during his time on the stand. He said she would oftenÂ intervene and ask important questions about the case in order to formulateÂ a more informedÂ 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.
â€œIt 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,â€ 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 atÂ the police department. Part of Judge Scheindlinâ€™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 sheâ€™s ordered. This judicialÂ monitor will have the full authority of a federal oversightÂ judge and will have, in effect, veto power over the police departmentâ€™s policies, practices and procedures related to â€œstop and friskâ€ 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 changesÂ in training and supervision,â€ he said. Â
Walker said the court hasÂ mandated changes in training, which include how stop and frisks forms are filled out and reviewed.
He said the ruling will establishÂ a standard in this practiceÂ for the rest of the country.
â€œYou cannot just engage in an uncontrolled policy that involves unconstitutional actions and results in racial profiling,â€ he said. Â â€œIt sends a very strong message to the country.â€Professor Walker will present â€œOn the Stand in New York Cityâ€ in the College of Public Affairs and Community Service at UNOâ€™s Dodge Campus from 3p.m.-5p.m.
Comments are closed.