Known for speaking her mind, a controversial federal judge says the police cases involving the chokehold of Eric Garner and the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson could have been avoided. In this Exclusive story, NY1's Dean Meminger says the judge in the stop-and-frisk trial made the comments to lawyers in the Bronx.
While being honored by the Bronx Bar Association, Judge Shira Scheindlin said working class Black and Latinos in the borough deserve well trained officers.
"Many Bronx residents have had encounters with law enforcement and many of those encounters have been less than positive," Scheindlin said.
Known as the stop-and-frisk Judge, Scheindlin marks 20 years this fall on the federal bench. She made headlines several times, but it was her controversial ruling in last year's trial against the city and NYPD over stop-and-frisk tactics that really put her in the spotlight.
She ruled police unconstitutionally stopped black and Latino men far too often.
Although the ruling is still being worked out, she was removed from the case by a higher court that said she appeared biased against the police department.
"I ordered that NYPD members in test precincts wear body cameras, but that order has still not taken effect, primarily because the police unions are still insisting on their right to intervene and appeal that order," said Scheindlin.
Police Commissioner William Bratton says by next year, 60 officers will wear cameras in an NYPD pilot program.
Judge Scheindlin envisioned the department would have more participation from community groups and court appointed advisors as the program was implemented.
Raising the eyebrows of some lawyers and judges in the room, Scheindlin boldly said cameras could have prevented the tragic police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
"In Staten Island, an unarmed man was killed by policemen arresting him from trafficking in untaxed cigarettes. And in Ferguson Missouri, an unarmed teenager was shot six times and killed by police officers," Scheindlin said. "If the police in both of those encounters had been wearing body cameras, I expect that neither incident would have ended with a dead body."
Judge Scheindlin says it's well documented that cameras change people's behavior. She says police officers and the citizens they protect will be less likely to be aggressive when they know they are being watched.
"Well one thought is you could film a number of actual stops and arrests, and then you could play back those films and you can use them for teaching and training to see whether what was done was right or was wrong," Scheindlin said.
Scheindlin says she's hopeful the rocky relationship between the community and police is improving.