In the process, Judge Scheindlin coined a term, “indirect racial profiling,” to explain how the department’s reliance on data indicating that black men committed a disproportionate amount of crime led to what she saw as violations of the Constitution.
How the judge came to this decision was revealed over the course of a 195-page opinion, released on Monday.
One witness claimed to have heard Mr. Kelly say that the stop-and-frisk tactics were intended to frighten minority men into leaving any guns they owned at home. A precinct commander described “the right people” to stop, with a reference to young black men. And a statistical analysis of millions of police interactions revealed that few people subjected to stop-and-frisk methods had been engaging in wrongdoing.
These three items of evidence were central to Judge Scheindlin’s conclusion that the Police Department has a policy of conducting stops “in a racially discriminatory manner.”
In particular, the statement attributed to Mr. Kelly, as well as the phrase about the “right people,” served as the lens through which the judge interpreted a mountain of data about 4.4 million police stops. That data showed that stops overwhelmingly involved black and Hispanic people and that the people stopped were rarely found to be engaging in criminal activity.
Judge Scheindlin found that the department operated on the notion that black and Hispanic people were the right people to stop — a theme, she wrote, that was evident in statements made by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg out of court, and in directives made by commanders during station house roll calls.
The judge repeatedly cited testimony by the onetime highest ranking uniformed member of the department, Joseph J. Esposito, who was asked about the reasons for some stops. At one point, Mr. Esposito explained: “Well, who is doing those shootings? Well, it’s young men of color in their late teens, early 20s.”
It was a similar sentiment that Judge Scheindlin detected in a recording of a deputy inspector exhorting a subordinate to conduct more stops.
That meant stopping “the right people at the right time, the right location,” the deputy inspector, Christopher McCormack, said. Pressed on what he meant, he noted that black teenagers and young men were behind some crimes being committed in his precinct.
At another point, Judge Scheindlin noted that Mr. Kelly had said, according to a state senator who was present for the conversation, that young black and Hispanic men were the focus of the stops because the commissioner “wanted to instill fear in them, every time they leave their home, they could be stopped by the police.”
A key point is that New York City, with its income tax on rich people, can afford to pay cops to get in the face of shifty-looking people far more than most cities can. Without acting in an overtly discriminatory manner, NYC can afford to show its blacks and Latinos who is boss. If they find that awareness of who is top dog in New York these days depressing and want to move somewhere in America less affluent, well, Mayor Bloomberg wouldn't mind if they remembered, like the crack dealer at the end of Clockers who grabs a bus for Atlanta, that the Port Authority Bus Terminal is open 24/7.
Mr. Kelly had filed an affidavit denying that he made such a statement, but the judge credited the account of the state senator, Eric Adams, who testified during the trial.
The city offered explanations for the statistics on millions of stops that so troubled Judge Scheindlin. The low arrest rate of people stopped reflected the fact that officers were proactively stopping criminals before they had a chance to go through with their crimes, according to city lawyers. And minorities were disproportionately stopped because they lived in the same high-crime neighborhoods where the police deployed many of its officers.
But Judge Scheindlin was not swayed by those arguments. She concluded that the low arrest rate meant that the people who were being stopped were rarely the criminals the police sought; all they had in common was the color of their skin.
“The city adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data,” she wrote.