A teenage boy who says he was unfairly frisked and arrested by police when he was 13, was the first witness Monday in a class-action federal lawsuit over the constitutionality of the New York City Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy. NY1's Dean Meminger has the story.
Devin Almonor, 16, was the first to take the stand in the federal trail against the New York City Police Department over its controversial stop and frisk policy.
Almonor said he feels he was illegally stopped, questioned and frisked -- and eventually arrested -- when he was 13.
"I want to be a voice to fight against the injustices of some of the NYPD," Almonor said.
Last year, officers stopped, questioned and frisked more than 500,000 people. In 2011, the number was closer to 700,000. The great majority stopped were black and Latino young men who were let go because it was found they did nothing wrong.
This federal case is not about ending stop-and-frisk, but about changing the way it is used. The plaintiff in the case is also calling for a court monitor to watch and assess officers who stop and frisk anyone on the street.
"I hope that we are not going to have hundreds of thousands of unconstitutional stops every year and that black and Latino communities aren't going to feel under siege anymore," Center for Constitutional Rights plaintiffs' attorney Darius Charney said.
Outside the courthouse, protesters, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, demanded change.
"New York's argument seems to be to justify, not deny. Seems to rationalize, not deny. We do these things because it keeps the city safe. It is unfair, it is unjust," Jackson said.
City lawyers said officers are not engaged in racial profiling, but rather in effective crime fighting.
"Police officers must be able to do their jobs in order to protect public safety, especially for New Yorkers living in areas with a disproportionate number of crime victims," city attorney Heidi Grossman said. "That includes questioning people who act suspiciously, or who fit the description of crime suspects."
Plaintiffs' attorneys argue officers have a quota system that is causing unfair stops.
"It's go out and get the numbers. And if you don't go out and get the numbers, you are going to get transferred, you are going to have adverse employment actions taken against you," plaintiffs' attorney Jonathan Moore said.
The trial is expected to last between four and six weeks, and several officers and their bosses are expected to testify.