A federal investigation has determined that an elite undercover unit of the Police Department engaged in racial profiling while conducting an aggressive campaign of street searches, The New York Times reported today.
The inquiry began just weeks after the 1999 shooting death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant killed by four members of the Police Department’s Street Crime Unit.
The U.S. attorney’s office is meeting with the mayor’s office to try to negotiate changes that would avert a lawsuit, the newspaper reported.
If talks fail, the Justice Department could go to court and ask a judge to order broad changes in the operations of the unit and possible oversight by a federal monitor.
Unit Under Scrutiny
Prosecutors based their findings on a statistical analysis of the people searched by the unit’s officers because they were suspected of committing crimes or carrying guns. The analysis determined that blacks and Hispanics were disproportionately singled out, the Times reported.
The Street Crime Unit, deployed in high-crime areas, has been seen by the NYPD as one of the chief reasons violent crime has fallen in the city.
But the unit’s performance and conduct came under intense scrutiny after the Diallo shooting. Although the four officers were acquitted, the NYPD has significantly reorganized the unit.
The investigation follows a 2-year federal probe into allegations of police brutality after Abner Louima was tortured in a Brooklyn station house in 1997.
Negotiations with the mayor’s office following that probe began over a year ago and have yet to be concluded.