NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Is it racial profiling or simply prudent police work?
That's the question facing a federal court as secretly recorded tapes of the NYPD brass go into evidence as part of the lawsuit to end the department's policy of stop and frisk.
There was a show of frustration outside federal court on Friday as the city defended its practice of stopping and frisking potential suspects in high-crime areas.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has entered secretly recorded conversations into evidence as it sues to end the practice, CBS 2's Lou Young reported.
On one of those tapes, a deputy commissioner can be heard explaining to a disgruntled police officer that he should concentrate on the "right people in the right place at the right time."
Deputy Commissioner: "Take Mott Haven, where we had most problems and the problems we had were robberies and grand larcenies."
Police Officer: "And who are those people robbing?"
Deputy Commissioner: "The problem was, what? Male blacks and I told you that at roll call so I have no problem telling you this: male blacks 14 to 20, 21 and I said it to you at roll call."
It's been a controversial approach and many suggest it has driven down crime in what once were very tough neighborhoods.
The problem is, some of the people who've been living with it the longest are getting weary.
"If there is crime thriving somewhere, then that's where you basically have to go, but it becomes unjustifiable when you're targeting people apparently just because they're in the area," said Marble Hill resident Corey Davis.
Another audio clip seems to suggest being in the wrong place can get you in trouble very easily.
Lieutenant: "You can go into any of the zones, just make sure you're in the zones. Don't write outside the zones. Don't write anybody over 65. Nothing having to do with dogs or dog tags. No bikes on the sidewalk."
Lieutenant: "St. Mary's Park? Go crazy in there, go crazy in there."
"We don't pick out an ethnicity, we don't look at anybody's ethnicity. We go where the crimes are," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Whatever the intent, New Yorkers in black and Hispanic communities said the effect is to make them feel victimized.
Among the demonstrators protesting on Friday included lawyers and public defenders from the Bronx and their supporters, who said the practice simply has to stop.
"I don't think that people on the Upper East Side would tolerate this for one minute," said Brooklyn Heights residents Ariel Besoshodsky.
A federal judge will ultimately rule if the task of reducing crime is justified by the means the NYPD is employing.
The secret audio tapes were recorded by Police Officer Pedro Serrano, who became disenchanted with the department's tactics while working in the Bronx.
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