Stop and Frisk Constitutionality Challenged in Court: NYPD Officers Accused Of Unlawfully Detaining and Mocking 13 Year Old

In the second week of a federal court case with civil rights implications, Officer Brian Dennis testified on Wednesday that he taunted 13-year old Devin Almonor after he detained him in Harlem under NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program in 2010.

Officer Dennis and his Officer Donathan Korabel stopped Devin Almonor in 2010 as the teen, walking alone in Harlem, reached for his waistband as if to pull out a gun. Although Almonor was not found to be carrying a weapon, the two officers handcuffed him and took him to the nearest station. Dennis taunted the teen, telling him to “stop crying like a little girl.”

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, most of the people frisked during the past decade, were primarily African American or Latino. Nearly 90% of the detainees were released without an arrest or a summons.

The CCR brought the lawsuit on behalf of four black plaintiffs who claim they were stopped on the account of their race. The CCR constitutes that these stops infringed on the constitutional rights of thousands of New Yorkers as the NYPD officers acted mostly on racial biases, and not legitimate reasons for detention.  

Police officials, on the other hand, have argued that the stop-and-frisk program is a legal tool that has helped lower crime rates. The NYPD also presented in court on Wednesday a memo dated March 5, 2013, that requires officers to provide detailed reasons for the stops they make. The memo attempts to standardize all paperwork related to stops and to establish a set procedure to stops enacted by officers. The U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin, however, declined the city’s request to enter the memo into evidence unless the person involved in its creation would stand as a witness in court.

The trial unfolding in Manhattan is expected to last over a month and include the testimony of up to 100 witnesses. In the coming weeks, the city will present its side of the stop-and-frisk controversy. City attorneys will call to the witness stand three NYPD officers who, during a three-month period in 2009, recorded the highest number of detentions on the basis of stop-and-frisk in the city.

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Desi Petkova

Student at Columbia University, currently double majoring in Architecture and Economics-Philosophy

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