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Lawyer examines police misconduct

| Tuesday, November 1, 2016

In his experience with civil rights law, lawyer Bill Goodman has worked with a number of clients who have been the victims of police misconduct.

“You can force government to answer for what they do wrong, and what is unjust, and you can force people in power to answer for what they do wrong as well, and I think that’s an important rationale for doing some of the work that we do,” Goodman said in a lecture on police misconduct Monday.

Goodman said in his line of work, he has seen ways to combat the issue of misconduct.

“In the end there really is only one way to affect police misconduct, through methods that I can point to,” Goodman said. “I’m talking about training, supervision and discipline. Those are the things that I think will really alter the way that police behave and carry out their roles.”

Beyond this, Goodman said he thinks the law is another important aspect of fixing the issues he sees nationwide.

“Litigation, I think also is important, and it plays a role, but I think it points out the lapses in training, supervision and discipline,” Goodman said.

Specifically, Goodman said he sees a real issue with racism in relation to stop and frisk laws in New York.

“The theory in [stop and frisk] is meant to protect everyone equally,” Goodman said. “But Latino males, young males especially, and black males, they are being stopped constantly.”

Goodman said he wanted to find a way to see if what he observed was actually what was going on statistically.

“We wanted to go into the statistics and see if, statistically, we could prove that if you’re a young black or young Latino kid that you are more likely to be stopped and frisked, beyond a reasonable suspicion,” Goodman said.

One of Goodman’s colleagues proceeded to go through the police records of instances of stop and frisk and found it was more likely that a young male minority was more likely to be stopped than a white male.

“The police were saying, ‘You know of course we’re going to stop more black and Hispanic kids in the Bronx, because that’s where the crimes are happening,’” Goodman said.

However, Goodman and his colleagues looked into the number of arrests made on those that were stopped.

“For every 10 stop and frisks of minorities, there were three arrests,” Goodman said. “For every 10 stop and frisks of caucasian kids, there were eight arrests, which tells you that there’s a real basis for stop and frisk for a white suspect, but color was the only basis if you were a minority.”

Goodman said this caused him and his colleagues to challenge law enforcement to take a harder look at the policies in place.

“So we said, you know, you have to go back and retrain and say you can’t just stop and frisk based on color,” Goodman said.

When he was watching dash cam tapes, Goodman said he saw clear examples of racism.

“In my opinion, one of the major explanations for acquittals of some police, is that when the prosecutor shows the tapes to the jury, they never show the ones with the white motorists,” Goodman said. “And what does that show, when you put them side by side with ones of minority motorists? They show racism. They show clear racism.”

This racism affects the outcomes of the cases, Goodman said.

“If you take these tapes, every single one of these policemen should have been fired,” Goodman said. “And how many were fired? None of them. You see the power of racism in these videos, and how they affect the outcomes of these cases.” 

Goodman says he is seeing some progress being made, but not much.

“What we’re seeing so much of now, with police misconduct with these shootings is these chiefs that are saying this is what we need to do and this is how we’re going to proceed, and I think we’re seeing some progress, but I guess it would just be a little, not a lot,” Goodman said.

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall. She most recently served as Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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