Starting next month, the state court system will require New York City courts to keep track of hearings in which judges suppress evidence gathered from illegal searches or find that police officers provided testimony on the stand that was deemed lacking in credibility.
As part of a pilot program that launches Feb. 1, city judges will be required to direct staff to report evidence suppression and issues with police credibility on the stand to court clerks’ offices.
The findings will be distributed to the New York City Police Department and other stakeholders, according to an order signed by Lawrence Marks, the chief administrative judge of the Office of Court Administration.
But Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the court system, said officials have yet to determine who will be supplied with reports of evidence suppression and adverse credibility findings.
The program is the product of a settlement agreement reached in Floyd v. City of New York, in which a federal judge in Manhattan ruled in 2013 that the NYPD was using its “stop and frisk” program in an unconstitutional and discriminatory manner.
Ariel Belen, a retired state judge who served on the Appellate Division, Second Department and who was appointed as a facilitator to assist in developing reforms in the wake of the settlement, recommended in a report submitted to the court last year for the NYPD to develop a system to track evidence suppression and adverse credibility findings.
“Although the NYPD clearly has begun to change its policies, it is important that the court order that the department develop a program for systematically receiving, assessing, and acting on information regarding adverse findings on the conduct of police officers involving illegal stops or illegal trespass enforcements,” Belen wrote.
The federal court then turned to the state court system to develop such a program, according to a letter from OCA’s in-house counsel to George Silver, the deputy chief administrative judge for the New York City courts.
Andrew Stengel, a criminal defense attorney and former Manhattan prosecutor, alleges in a lawsuit filed against the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office that the office keeps a list of police officers who have had credibility issues on the stand that it refuses to make public.
Stengel applauded OCA for implementing the program, but said questions remain as to who will have access to the information that OCA collects as part of the pilot program.
“It’s about time,” Stengel said. “This is a huge step for OCA.”
According to a recent op-ed in the New York Daily News, Police Commissioner James O’Neill wrote that his predecessor, William Bratton, asked federal and state prosecutors to let the department know when there are adverse credibility findings against officers.
Policemen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch issued a written statement Monday in which he said the program is an example of the federal monitorship established as part of the court settlement as exceeding its charge and noted that the department's use stop-and-frisk has dramatically declined over the last several years.
Lynch said that "proactive policing" in the wake of the settlement is "basically extinct" and that the time has come for the monitorship to come to a close.
"What we are seeing here is an insidious form of mission creep: the Federal lawsuit and resulting settlement was confined to the NYPD’s street stop and trespass enforcement policies," Lynch said. "However, the monitoring regime has reinterpreted that narrow mandate to give itself authority over virtually every aspect of policing and criminal justice in this city."