Federal Judge: ‘NYPD Tapes’ Smoking Gun Evidence of Police Quotas


A federal judge has described tapes made by Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft as “smoking gun” evidence of quotas in a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s stop and frisk strategy.

The recordings were the centerpiece of a five-part Village Voice series, “The NYPD Tapes,” last year, and now they have become a central element in a lawsuit claiming that the NYPD’s stop and frisk strategy is unconstitutional, “a widespread pattern and practice of suspicion-less and race-based stops and frisks by the NYPD.”

In an 86-page decision, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin rejected the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of several New Yorkers who object to being stopped.

“Plaintiffs have presented the smoking gun of the roll call recordings, which considered together with the statistical evidence, is sufficient circumstantial evidence for this claim to survive,” Scheindlin wrote.

The decision is in many ways an initial vindication for Schoolcraft, who tried to raise concerns within the NYPD, and not only rebuffed and ignored, but was dragged into a psychiatric facility by police for six days, after he gave detailed evidence of misconduct to department investigators.

Schoolcraft was deposed in the case, and has also filed a lawsuit alleging his civil rights were violated by the NYPD.

The number of stop and frisks have skyrocketed. The NYPD says it is a law enforcement tactic that has helped reduce crime. Critics call the strategy harassment of young black and hispanic men.

Related: The NYPD Tapes: Inside Bed-Stuy’s 81st Precinct