MANHATTAN FEDERAL COURT—A federal judge ruled Friday that New York City’s expert witness’s opinion on stop-and-frisk’s effectiveness is “irrelevant” – and won’t be allowed during an upcoming trial that challenges whether the controversial program is legal.
Dennis Smith, an associate professor of public policy at NYU who has studied the NYPD since the 1970s, is barred from giving his views on the “deterrence and crime reduction impacts” of the program, wrote Manhattan federal judge Shira Schiendlin in her Friday ruling.
The city “clearly believes” that the policy has been effective in reducing crime, but whether Smith agrees with that or not is “irrelevant” because that’s not the issue in this case – the issue is the policy’s legality, Schiendlin wrote.
Five years ago, four African American men sued New York City, claiming the policy unjustly targets minorities. In May, Schiendlin granted the suit class-action status, saying she was disturbed by the city’s “deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.”
Allowing Smith's testimony "and permitting the parties to delve into the question of whether the stop and frisk program actually reduces crime -- would risk turning the trial into a policy debate over the wisdom of the program rather than a judicial proceeding that assesses plaintiffs' constitutional claims," according to Schiendlin.
The judge will, however, allow Smith to challenge the plaintiff’s expert witness, criminologist Jeffrey Fagan, about his studies that show stop-and frisks "are significantly more frequent for black and Hispanic residents than they are for white residents."
Earlier this month, DNAinfo.com New York reported that stop-and-frisk is failing to pull more guns off the street.
According to Fagan's studies, NYPD data shows that guns are recovered in only 0.15 percent of stops.
Schiendlin is also refusing to let Smith speculate during trial that so few stopped people are actually found carrying guns because they fear the stop-and-frisk policy, and thus it's an effective detterant.
"If guns are rarely recovererd," Schiendlin wrote, "then perhaps the 'suspicious bulges' that police identify are not really suspicious."