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Adams: Kelly condones wrongful street stops

State Sen. Eric Adams speaks to the media

State Sen. Eric Adams speaks to the media in front of Federal Court after he testified in a federal trial on the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy. (April 1, 2013) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a 2010 meeting that the city's stop-and-frisk program targeted young minority men "to instill fear in them" and keep them off the street, a Brooklyn state senator testified Monday in a federal lawsuit challenging the controversial police tactic.

Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), a former NYPD cop, said Kelly made the remark at a sit-down with then-Gov. David A. Paterson to discuss legislation to restrict an NYPD database of people stopped. Adams said he complained to Kelly about the disproportionate number of street stops of blacks and Latinos.

"He stated that he targeted and focused on that group because he wanted to instill fear in them that every time they left home they could be targeted," testified Adams, who said he was "shocked" and told Kelly that such an approach would be illegal.

"How else are we going to get rid of guns?" Kelly responded, according to Adams.

Kelly, the driving force behind a quintupling of street stops in the past decade, immediately denounced Adams' claim as "outrageous" at a news conference Monday. "I categorically and totally deny ever making such a statement," Kelly said.

The plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit are trying to convince U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan that the NYPD conducts stop-and-frisk to roust people without the "reasonable suspicion" of criminality required by law, and discriminates against minorities, who are the subjects of more than 80 percent of stops.

Adams said that in addition to Paterson, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), then an assemblyman, and State Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) were present when Kelly spelled out his strategy. He said Kelly repeated the same sentiments at a later meeting with black legislators.

"It makes the bad guys afraid, but it also makes the 90 percent of people who did nothing wrong afraid," Adams, a longtime critic of stop-and-frisk, said after testifying. "That's what was wrong about what he said."

Kelly speculated that Adams was trying to bait the city into changing its decision to not have Kelly testify at trial. He also noted that Paterson, Adams and Jeffries were three of New York's leading black politicians in 2010. "It just defies logic . . . that I would make that type of statement in front of three elected African-American officials," he said. "It defies anyone's logic, anyone who is familiar with me and what I say."

Paterson did not return calls for comment.

Golden said Kelly "never said" what Adams claimed. Jeffries said he recalled Kelly citing the need for "deterrence" in "communities of color."

"The commissioner stated that he wanted individuals to think hard before carrying a weapon out in public because of the likelihood that they could be stopped and frisked at any time," Jeffries said. "The problem, of course, is that deterrence cannot be used to justify a search that violates the Fourth Amendment, absent individualized suspicion."

With Anthony M. DeStefano

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