New York City’s police department, commonly referred to as the NYPD, is the largest metropolitan law enforcement agency in the U.S. More than 35,000 officers patrol the grid of Manhattan and its outer boroughs. Since its 9-11 height of popularity, the NYPD has distinguished itself in many ways, none more so than its enactment of a the country’s most widely applied Stop and Frisk policy.
“I was so confused the first time it happened. I thought you had to do something for them to really stop you.”
Every single one of the NYPD’s 35,000 cops is empowered to detain any kid, or adult, on the street and run the hand of the law across that passerby’s person.
If the stop and frisk goes without incident, the kid (usually the detainee is a juvenile) is allowed to go one about his (the stopped are predominantly male) business.
No harm done, right? Not even if you’re a kid who’s been stopped and frisked around 60 times between the ages of 16 and 18?
This New York Times video, “The Scars of Stop-and-Frisk” by Julie Dressner and Edwin Martinez, takes a little less than six minutes to expose the dilemma of Tyquan Brehon, a young Brooklyn man who estimates he was detained, questioned and patted down 60 to 70 times while still a kid.
“I was so confused the first time it happened,” says Brehon. “I thought you had to do something for them to really stop you.”
As stated in the video’s graphics, New York City police stopped people 685,724 times in 2011, and 88 percent of those stopped were not ticketed or arrested.
Tyquan Brehon feels that he was stopped and frisked primarily because he is black. “When you’re young and you’re black, no matter how you look, you fit the description.”
According to the Times reporting, 87 percent of the 685,724 people stopped in 2011 were black or Latino.
Whenever Brehon asked officers why he was being detained, the common answer he remembers was an aggressive change in tone from the cops and threats of being taken into custody. The young man only began to understand the situation when he talked about his circumstances to a teacher and mentor, identified in “The Scars of Stop-and-Frisk” as Drew.
Drew had weathered similar experiences and emotions as Tyquan, and the teen benefitted from an adult’s attention, empathy and perspective. But there are not 685,724 mentors like Drew to go around.
That’s why a Father’s Day silent march to stop Stop and Frisk is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Sunday, June 17 at 11th Street and 5th Avenue in New York City.
However, if New York City’s top-down attitude is any indicator, the grab-and-grope policy won’t be phased out by a quiet parade of outrage.
Addressing the predominantly black congregation of the First Baptist Church in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn this past Sunday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended Stop and Frisk as creating a “too hot to carry” environment that keeps weapons off New York streets. While admitting the possibility of “disrespectful language or unnecessary force” from police officers, Bloomberg concluded that frisk at will policies need “to be amended, not ended.”
The New York Times asserts that, strictly speaking, it is illegal for police to stop a person without reasonable suspicion of a crime. Frisks are illegal without suspicion of a weapon.
If you were in New York City, would Stop and Frisk make you feel safer or targeted? Explain why in COMMENTS.
Thanks to Colorlines for the lead.
Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice. Email Allan | @Allan_MacDonell