Dear Attorney General Holder:
Every day of the year, the New York City Police Department violates the basic civil rights of thousands of residents of the City of New York as patrol officers struggle to meet quotas illegally imposed by Commissioner Ray Kelly. The quotas have resulted in what Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York has called “widespread falsification” by NYPD officers in filing criminal charges against factually innocent people – almost all of whom are black and
Hispanic. These serious and widespread violations, particularly in light of their disparate racial impact, cannot and must not be tolerated. We call on the United States Department of Justice to exercise its powers under 42 U.S.C. § 14141 to investigate and intervene.
The people of New York deserve the same level of protection from misconduct by our police force that the Department of Justice has extended to the people of Newark, Los Angeles and New Orleans. The NYPD’s violations are equally flagrant, and the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau cannot be trusted to take the necessary remedial actions.
Commissioner Kelly’s quotas are driving the NYPD’s massive “stop-and-frisk” campaign, thus violating the right to be free from unwarranted police harassment of nearly 1,700 New Yorkers a day – more than 90% of whom are black and Hispanic. The racial disparity alone is sufficient to give rise to an inference of systematic and institutionalized racism, whether conscious or not, on the part of Commissioner Kelly
and his top brass. At the very least, they have been acting and continue to act with reckless disregard for the effect that their quota system has on the lives of individuals living in New York City’s many black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
We call on the Department of Justice to review audiotapes of station house “roll call” meetings produced by two former NYPD officers from 2008-2010 that Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin called “smoking gun” evidence of an illegal quota system. The system is reinforced by the constant threat to officers’ careers, including the threat of disciplinary actions against officers who refuse to participate. For example:
On November 23, 2008, a sergeant speaking about community residents during a roll call meeting stated, “If they're on a corner, make 'em move. If they don't want to move, lock 'em up. Done deal. You can always articulate [a charge] later.”
On February 27, 2009, a lieutenant confirmed that commanding officers are issuing orders to make baseless arrests: “I know you don't want to take these shitty collars, but you can't let the CO [commanding officer] go over the air and no one answers the radio.”
The documented misconduct of NYPD violates the rights and insults the dignity and integrity of all New Yorkers and must stop. The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau has demonstrated its incompetence or unwillingness to take the necessary measures to correct police behavior, and Commissioner Kelly refuses to acknowledge the systemic problems within his command.
The tremendous disproportion with which black and Hispanic communities bear the brunt of the burden for the NYPD’s utter disregard for the law demands a Department of Justice investigation and intervention. In the eyes of the law, it does not matter whether the racial disparity is motivated by bias or whether it is the unintentional outcome of facially race-neutral policies and practices. The end result is the same: a police force that treats black and Hispanic individuals in New York as criminal suspects and denies them the respect and dignity that they are due.
These practices must not be tolerated, and we hereby call on Attorney General Holder and the Department of Justice to exercise its power to initiate a civil action to “obtain appropriate equitable and declaratory relief” to eliminate the racially disparate patterns and practices of the NYPD, as provided for by 42 U.S.C. § 14141.