The New York City police department will be forced to defend in court its controversial practice of stopping and questioning hundreds of thousands black and Latino citizens every year against accusations that it amounts to an unconstitutional system of racial profiling.
A federal lawsuit filed by four men who found themselves on the receiving end of the department's so-called stop-and-frisk policy has passed key legal hurdles, and a decision is now awaited on whether the case should be ruled as a class action.
The resulting trial would throw a spotlight on a policy that the city's police commissioner, Ray Kelly, once described as "dubious", and which critics say has resulted in a culture of fear in New York's minority populations.
One New York state senator, Eric Adams, alleges Kelly even told him in 2010 he wanted to "instil the fear in black and Hispanic youth that every time they leave their homes they will feel that they could be stopped".
The number of reported encounters has soared under Kelly and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. In 2002, NYPD officers recorded 97,296 stop-and-frisks. Nine years later, that figure increased to a record-breaking total of 684,300.
Every year the vast majority of those stopped – generally 85% or more – have been African Americans or Latinos, and about nine out of 10 were released without a charge or a summons. The NYPD says the stop-and-frisk policy has reduced crime; this is disputed by its critics, who say it has increased racial tensions in the city. In one of her rulings, the judge in the federal case said the links are "not clear".
The corporate media have been cheering for a Commissioner Kelly run for mayor in 2013.
I am hoping for one too.
That would give us all an opportunity to take a closer look at this police commissioner who has his boot on the faces of many in the city and the "policing" techniques he utilizes.