Stop-and-frisk is already considered a controversial tactic employed by the New York Police Department, but a recently released recording sheds light on just how discriminatory the practice can actually be. The audio was secretly taped by a teenager who was stopped and frisked (and more) by NYPD officers. In it, 17-year-old Alvin is heard being roughed up, threatened and demeaned by three officers, for being, as one put it, “a fucking mutt.”
Here’s some background on the controversial stop-and-frisk policy from Gawker:
Though the tactic, which finds police arbitrarily seizing citizens and forcing them to empty their pockets and bags, has faced legal challenges more than once, and while its use is on the decline, it continues to be a go-to way for police to patrol predominantly minority areas. Of the nearly 700,000 stop-and-frisks performed in 2011, 84 percent were conducted on blacks and Latinos, and only 2 percent turned up contraband, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Essentially, what stop-and-frisk has become is a legal way for police officers to harass and demean young male minorities, the vast majority of whom turn out to be totally innocent.
That is basically what happened to Alvin. Throughout the recording, the teenager is routinely told to “shut the fuck up” as he attempts to figure out why officers stopped him in the first place. Racially charged language is used against the teen. At one point, one of the officers can be heard threatening Alvin with violence. “Dude, I’m gonna break your fuckin’ arm, then I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ face,” the officer says.
“This audio confirms what we’ve been hearing from communities of color, again and again,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said. “They are repeatedly subjected to abusive and disrespectful treatment at the hands of the NYPD. This explains why so many young people don’t trust the police and won’t help the police.”
Alvin’s treatment at the hands of the officers may be disturbing but it is not uncommon. According to their own stop-and-frisk data, the NYPD stops more than 1,800 New Yorkers a day. A New York Times analysis recently determined that more than 20 percent of those stops involve the use of force. And these are only the numbers that the Department records. Anecdotal evidence suggests both figures are much higher.
In this video, exclusive to TheNation.com, Alvin describes his experience of the stop, and working NYPD officers come forward to explain the damage stop-and-frisk has done to their profession and their relationship to the communities they serve. The emphasis on racking up stops has also hindered what many officers consider to be the real work they should be doing on the streets. The video sheds unprecedented light on a practice, cheered on by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, that has put the city’s young people of color in the department’s crosshairs.
The officers who threatened and intimidated Alvin were not fired, suspended or otherwise subjected to any disciplinary measures for their treatment of the teen. Perhaps as Gawker noted, “It’s just the cops doing their job: To serve, protect and threaten to break teenagers’ arms.”
Watch the video, which contains the audio recording: