The city is facing a new class action lawsuit filed by nine New Yorkers over the NYPD’s use of quotas to get officers to issue summonses and stop-and-frisk people, court records show.
The lawsuit, filed late last month in federal court in Manhattan, cites some of the quotations which appeared in the Village Voice’s NYPD Tapes series. The series established the fact that precinct supervisors order their officers to hit quotas for tickets and stop-and-frisks, and threaten them with disciplinary action if they don’t comply. (See the second part of the series here, and stay tuned for the third part coming out Wednesday.)
“The quota policy is the driving force here,” says Joshua Fitch, a lawyer representing the nine plaintiffs. “The NYPD can have productivity targets, but under the Constitution you cannot be searched or seized in the absence of probable cause.”
The lawsuit names Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his top spokesman Paul Browne.
The plaintiffs allege that the NYPD violated the United States Constitution when officers stopped and issued tickets or arrested people on thin charges without reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime had been or was about to be committed.
Officers are rewarded for issuing more summonses, and punished for not issuing enough summonses, the lawsuit claims. In addition, the lawsuit claims that the NYPD didn’t properly train officers not to issue summonses unless they were based on probable cause, and poorly supervised those officers.
One of the plaintiffs, Sharif Stinson, a 19-year-old stock clerk, was ticketed three times for being in the vicinity of his aunt’s Bronx apartment. In one incident, he was charged with trespass and disorderly conduct for simply walking into his aunt’s building. That case was dismissed.
In a second, he had just walked out of the building, when police officers stopped him, and brought him in for questioning for four hours. He was released with another disorderly conduct summons, for “congregating with other persons and refusing to comply with an order.” That case was also dismissed because police officers didn’t file the paperwork in court.
Another plaintiff, Mariam Farnum, 27, was stopped while driving in her car with her two very young daughters at Bedford and Atlantic avenues. It took her awhile to find her drivers license, and so, an officer pulled her out of the car, handcuffed her and placed her in a patrol car.
One of her daughters jumped out of the car to find her mom, and nearly got hit by another motorist. Farnum was detained for six hours, and given tickets for talking on her cell-phone and disorderly conduct.
“She pulled her own cell-phone records, and can prove she was never on her cell-phone,” Fitch says.
The case was dismissed.
The lawsuit also cites a report by the local ABC affiliate television station which said that more than 50 percent of these summonses are dismissed. Fitch believes since a lot of summonses are rejected in the precinct before they even get to court, the number could be much higher.
“You’re talking about a huge number of potential plaintiffs,” he says.
The lawsuit asks a judge to stop the NYPD from using quotas to issue summonses, and demands more training for officers.