In a powerful short documentary posted by The Nation, a New York Police Department (NYPD) veteran, who has been part of the department for fifteen years, says of stop and frisks, “People don’t like police because of the harassment. And what civilians don’t understand is that the police department is forcing us to do these stops or you’re going to get penalized.”
The documentary by Ross Tuttle, which is called, “The Hunted and the Hated: An Inside Look at the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy,” contains “secretly captured” audio of a stop-and-frisk action by police that is the “one of the only known recordings” of such an action.
The audio was recorded on June 3, 2011, when “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.” The police can be heard asking Alvin, “You want me to smack you?” They threaten to arrest Alvin and, when Alvin asks why, an officer says, “For being a fucking mutt.”
It is a grotesque, racist and vile example of one stop, but it is just one of over 8,000 stop-and-frisks that are believed to occur every day in New York.
New York state law, as the short film notes, prohibits the use of quotas for arrests, summons and stops by the NYPD. Nonetheless, there are officers, who identity was concealed to protect them, who share how police are pressured to go out and get 250s—stop people and frisk them—or else.
“I had this captain who walked into the precinct and gave a speech about harassing the public,” a ten-year NYPD veteran recounts. “His words were, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to violate some rights. We hear it from the captain down. We want 250s—stop, question and frisks.”
The ten-year veteran police officer confesses, “A lot of police officers are trying to set civilians off and then, once they start talking, start cursing, they can lock them up for anything.”
“There was two minorities leaning against the wall,” the fifteen-year veteran police officer recounts. “They weren’t doing anything. And my sergeant ordered me to write them blocking pedestrian traffic. If you’re a certain ethnicity, standing on the corner, lieutenants, sergeants—They have no problem searching you, violating your rights and racial profiling.”
The NYPD creates this culture by disciplining officers, who do not conduct enough stop and frisks. Officers can be transferred, receive low evaluations or even be put in a much more dangerous neighborhood with higher crime. They may be put on a midnight shift. All of this is done to send a message to officers that they must go out and stop and harass people.
As Trevor, a 19-year-old in Brooklyn, says in the video, police “got no respect for us and they wonder why we don’t got no respect for them.”
For more on stop and frisk practices in New York, visit the NYCLU’s page on stop and frisks.