For more than a century, the world has viewed New York City as the bastion of freedom.
With Lady Liberty holding her torch high in the sky, her broken chains lying at her feet, the city promised newcomers they would be free from oppression and tyranny, regardless of the color of their skin or the language they speak.
It is a city of unyielding resilience and yankee pride saluting the Freedom Tower rising from the ashes of demolished World Trade Center in a defiant gesture that freedom and democracy will never be constrained.
But beneath the towering façade of skyscraping dreams and assuring lights lies the gritty reality that New York City is turning into a suffocating police state.
And that became even more evident Tuesday upon the release of a video revealing the chilling aspects of the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk program in which a young man secretly audio recorded an interaction after he was stopped, frisked, insulted and threatened with violence for doing nothing but walking down the street.
Police can be heard saying he looked suspicious because he was walking down the street with a hoodie looking back at them.
But it’s obvious they would have found him just as suspicious had he done the same while averting their gaze.
According to The Nation, which posted the video:
On June 3, 2011, three plainclothes New York City Police officers stopped a Harlem teenager named Alvin and two of the officers questioned and frisked him while the third remained in their unmarked car. Alvin secretly captured the interaction on his cell phone, and the resulting audio is one of the only known recordings of stop-and-frisk in action.
In the course of the two-minute recording, the officers give no legally valid reason for the stop, use racially charged language and threaten Alvin with violence. Early in the stop, one of the officers asks, “You want me to smack you?” When Alvin asks why he is being threatened with arrest, the other officer responds, “For being a fucking mutt.” Later in the stop, while holding Alvin’s arm behind his back, the first officer says, “Dude, I’m gonna break your fuckin’ arm, then I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ face.”
The 13-minute video is worth viewing in its entirety because it contains interviews from current and former police officers who are deriding the program, saying it unfairly targets minorities and blaming it on their superiors.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly make no secret that they are in full support of the program, telling the media that it is for the safety of the citizens.
But statistics compiled by the Center for Constitutional Rights paint another picture:
In 2011, in New York City, 685,724 people were stopped, 84 percent of whom were Black and Latino residents — although they comprise only about 23 percent and 29 percent of New York City’s total population respectively. 2011 is the highest year on record for stops. The number of stops represent an over 600 percent since Mayor Bloomberg came into office. In 2011, 88 percent of all stops did not result in an arrest or a summons being given. Contraband was found in only 2 percent of all stops. The NYPD claims their stop and frisk policy keeps weapons off the street – but weapons were recovered in only one percent of all stops. These numbers clearly contradict that claim.
The officers interviewed in the video said they are subject to disciplinary action if they don’t keep up with the high demands of stops, summons and arrests.
It is likely the reason the white shirted commanding officers were often seen as the most violent and abusive during the Occupy Wall Street protests when it’s usually the other way around within other police departments.
Police officers in the video who remain incognito say commanding officers push them to do it to help themselves get them promoted.
Several organizations, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, are suing the NYPD over the program.
But as unconstitutional as it is, proponents credit it for reducing crime since it emerged in the 1990s after the inception of the CompStat, the managerial system that began a more aggressive approach to combatting crime-ridden neighborhoods.
However, there is no solid evidence that the reduction of crime in New York City can be solely attributed to to the stop-and-frisk program, considering there was a reduction in crime throughout the United States during this same time.
The Christian Science Monitor listed the following reasons of the decline in crime throughout the United States:
- Increased incarceration, including longer sentences, that keeps more criminals off the streets.
- Improved law enforcement strategies, including advances in computer analysis and innovative technology.
- The waning of the crack cocaine epidemic that soared from 1984 to 1990, which made cocaine cheaply available in cities across the US.
- The graying of America characterized by the fastest-growing segment of the US population – baby boomers – passing the age of 50.
But despite this decline in crime, the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program has become even more aggresive.
Earlier this year, NYPD officers hung a poster inside a precinct of two activists who had been protesting against the practice, describing them as “professional antagonists,” even though they had not committed a crime, essentially profiling them to make it easier for officers to stop and frisk them.
The above audio recording is believed to be the first to emerge from a stop-and-frisk interaction, even though the program has been in existence for nearly two decades.
Before the stop, the young man was considering to be a police officer. In fact, one of the cops recognized him from the Explorer program, geared toward high school students interested in a career in law enforcement.
Now he is not so sure.
New York is a one-party consent state, so there will never be the threat of a wiretapping arrest from secretly recording a cop during an interaction.
Hopefully more citizens begin recording these interactions because it would make great evidence in the pending civil case that is trying to put a stop to the program.
Please send stories, tips and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
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