New Yorkers Ramp Up Outcry Against Stop-and-Frisk

Reporting on stop-and-frisk has been a staple in the community and ethnic press, especially for African-American and Latino newspapers, whose young men feel the brunt of the NYPD tactic. The heated debate has amped up in light of recent shootings by police who mistakenly killed a Bronx bodega employee during a botched robbery on Sept. 7 and killed an unarmed Army National Guardsman during a traffic stop in Queens on Oct. 4.

Kimberly Ortiz, 28, holds up a sign at a protest against stop-and-frisk and police brutality in Union Square on Oct. 22. (Photo by Kaitlyn Wells/The Uptowner)

On Oct. 22, protesters spoke out against stop-and-frisk and police brutality in Union Square, in one of several national rallies organized by the October 22 Coalition. The Uptowner‘s Kaitlyn Wells and Hollie Slade reported that demonstrators held signs, flags and images of family members shot by the NYPD. The Columbia Journalism School publication counted at least 120 people, while police estimates had a lower figure of 80. The publication included the following statistic:

Stop-and-frisk incidents reached a record 680,000 in 2011, up from 97,000 in 2002, though they’re likely to decline this year, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. It also found that, from 2002 to 2011, blacks and Latinos represented close to 90 percent of people stopped.

The Uptowner mentioned Harlem resident Noche Diaz who faces trial next week for “obstruction and resisting arrest at stop-and-frisk protests,” with a possible sentence of four-and-a-half-years in prison.

He believes he was singled out and arrested five times so the police could show “a pattern of disobedience.”

Police brutality is “commonplace” and “always in the background” for teens uptown, said Diaz. “I speak to a lot of 14- and 15-year-olds. They feel that unless you’re a white person in society, you are going to be targeted.”

Diaz said that in high school, he and his friends constantly received tickets and summonses for loitering and felt “herded around like animals” by the police.

Some of the faces of the 33 who shared their stories. Click on the image above to hear those stories at Bronx Ink. (Photo from Bronx Ink)

He’s not alone. Another Columbia Journalism School publication, the Bronx Ink, collected the stories of 33 Bronx residents, ages 19 to 72, which can be heard on their site. They were asked if stop-and-frisk “might in any way be contributing to the growing unrest.” The interviews were conducted on Sept. 13, just after the accidental shooting of bodega employee Reynaldo Cuevas, 20, in the Morrisania neighborhood in the Bronx.

Most of the men complained that police stopped them multiple times despite no weapons ever being found. The statistics back it up. According to the Bronx Ink:

Data released by the New York Police Department last year showed that more than 400 stops occurred in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx last year, resulting in only 10 confiscated guns. Most residents surveyed said they felt they were victims of profiling based on their race. Police data showed that young Black men represent 25.6 percent of the NYPD stops but only 1.9 percent of the city’s population. The same goes for young Latino men, who make up 16 percent of the NYPD’s stops but only 2.8 percent of the city’s population.

Furthermore, “The data shows that 88 percent of those stopped were not charged with anything.

More than half of those interviewed said they had been stopped, with 77 percent opposing the tactic. Among those who shared their stories was Louis Soltren, who said he was resting after work outside his Mott Haven apartment building, dressed in a suit, when an officer walked up to him.

I pulled out my ID,” Soltren remembered. “The guy actually refused to see my ID. Instead of treating me like a human being, he treated me like an animal.

The officer ordered Soltren to take off his shoes and place his hands against the wall of his apartment building.

I look way different than what certain drug dealers look like,” said Soltren, a 31-year-old Spanish and Italian resident of the Bronx. “I still fall in that category. The way I see it is because of my Hispanic race.”

Joys Reid, 53, has lived in Hunts Points his entire life. He said, “One-hundred-one times I have been stopped by cops. Everyday we get picked up for nothing.”

Terrence Wilkerson, 36, who has lived in Highbridge for three decades said, “Stop and frisk I don’t think is going to stop anything because it hasn’t. Stop and frisk is borderline racism.”

Among the 33 interviewed, a few did support stop-and-frisk but most called for “positive” community involvement on the part of the NYPD.

Only five of the people we spoke to supported the policy, two of whom were Hispanic. “I think it’s great. It’s extremely important,” said Robert Flores, 45, a Fordham resident. “I know a lot of people are against it but I feel that it needs to happen. Within this community, we are the only people robbing each other.”

Overwhelmingly, those surveyed said more positive police involvement in their community would prevent unnecessary stops. “If they see the same people everyday, they should know the community,” Peter Lorenzi, 19, a criminal justice major at Berkeley College said. “They should know people around them.”

Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) echoed these concerns in the chambers of the City Council by introducing four bills that cut back, or eliminate altogether, the policy of stop-and-frisk, reported Domenick Rafter for Queens Chronicle. The bills, collectively called the Community Safety Act, would enact the following, according to Rafter:

• require officers, when conducting stops, to identify themselves, provide their name and rank and explain the reason for the stop;

• strengthen the ban on racial, ethnic and gender profiling when determining who to stop;

• require that individuals stopped are informed of their right to refuse a search and force officers to obtain proof of their consent, if granted, in cases in which there is no other legal basis to conduct a search; and

• establish an inspector general’s office to oversee the NYPD.

On Oct. 10, the City Council held a hearing on the four bills, “during which fireworks erupted between council members over the policy,” with opponents calling the legislation “anti-cop.”

Coucilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) spoke out against the idea that stop-and-frisk removes guns from the streets, saying, “Stop and frisk is about creating a larger police presence with a diminished force. It’s a pre-emptive type of police action.”

Statistics for Queens reflect those of the Bronx in terms of high instances of stop-and-frisk with few outcomes. According to NYPD statistics from 2011, Downtown Jamaica, Queensbridge and North Corona had the greatest amounts of stop-and-frisk activity. Those areas also have high numbers of people of color.

But despite the high incidences of stop and frisks in those neighborhoods, the number of guns found were not many. At Queensbridge, where two people have been shot in the past three weeks, only one gun was found in more than 1,600 stop and frisks. In Downtown Jamaica, more than 2,200 stop and frisks ended with only four guns found — the same number of guns found in a three-block radius of Kew Gardens Hills, in which a total of five guns were discovered in the community in 2011 despite fewer than 100 stop and frisks there.

The statistics show a similar trend where multiple guns were found in areas with few stop and frisks in other parts of the borough.

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