Latinos Uneasy About ‘Broken Windows’ Policy

Protesting the death of Eric Garner at the hands of police. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Protesting the death of Eric Garner at the hands of police. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

The death of Eric Garner at the hands of a NYPD officer last month, and the increased number of arrests of Latinos and African Americans for misdemeanors during Bill de Blasio’s administration so far, have raised great concern among civil rights activists, El Diario/La Prensa reports.

An article by Juan Matossian reflects a growing uneasiness with the mayor’s “broken windows” policy, which many see as a continuation of the previous administration’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” practice.

“The NYPD applies the ‘broken windows’ theory in a much-aggressive manner, and officers are evaluated for meeting arrest quotas. This drives them to detain large numbers of people for the most innocuous reasons,” said Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP). “This policy creates resentment among victims, and, as they resist arrest, it can lead to serious injury or even death, as in Eric Garner’s tragic case.”

In June, PROP volunteers visited the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Bronx criminal courts to observe 747 citations for misdemeanors. In 667 cases — 89 percent of them — the accused was black or Latino.

“These citations often lead to a person’s arrest, which has devastating effects on their immigration status, their right to remain in public housing or their chance to find a job,” said José Pérez, legal director with LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

In the days after Garner’s death, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to retrain the whole police force to prevent further cases of deaths and injuries due to chokeholds, but they still defended the “broken windows” policy.

The article points out that the administration is showing signs that it is taking the criticism seriously.

“In 2014, you cannot apply the same policing methods you used in the ’90s,” said City Comptroller Scott Stringer in a meeting with El Diario. “We live in an even more diverse city than back then, and we must analyze which aspects of ‘broken windows’ work and which don’t work in this new reality.”

The story is accompanied by testimony from a number of people on 116th Street in Manhattan’s El Barrio and Bruckner Boulevard in Mott Haven in the Bronx. Those Latinos interviewed by Alexandra Ochoa claimed that they felt harassed by the NYPD.

The general sentiment is that the police are constantly issuing fines for minor offenses, which many say is excessive. Awilda Flores, a 58-year-old Puerto Rican hairdresser, was fined for having the music inside her car at a high volume.

“It’s probably that they now want to get us out of the Bronx. In Manhattan, they don’t want poor people anymore,” said Lázaro Martínez, a 40-year-old Puerto Rican who was fined for drinking alcohol on the street.

“You have to be alert all the time, because they are going around waiting for the moment to give you a parking ticket or to see if you’re drinking. They don’t give you a break!” said Dominican José Florián, who is 35 and works at a bodega.

“They gave me a ticket because I was sitting in the street, supposedly loitering. You can’t be just chilling anywhere anymore,” said Fernando Correa, a 20-year-old Mexican who works delivering pizza.

“I was asked to appear in court because I was on my bike and got on the sidewalk while I dropped off a delivery. I am not going to show up. I’m afraid; I don’t have papers,” said Peruvian Pedro Flórez, 47, who also delivers food.

“They pressure us at the restaurant to deliver quickly, so I rode over a sidewalk on my bike and now I have a citation. There are cops on every corner,” he said.

Dominican Mariano Madrigal, who drives an ice cream truck, said: “They will fine you for any reason. Fines for $1,000! Can you imagine? Where am I going to get that money?”

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