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Social Issues
Stop And Frisk: The NYPD’s Controversial Policy Is Under Fire After Troubling Audio Tape Emerges
October 16, 2012
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There's a lot of controversy in New York City right now, over a long standing police policy known as 'Stop and Frisk.'

The NYPD adopted the policy 20 years ago - it says, to go after illegal drug dealers and trespassers inside residential buildings (ie hallways and stairwells).

But more and more, critics are speaking out - saying stop-and-frisk has become a legal way for police to harass and put fear in people, especially young African American and Hispanic men.

And critics say, in many of those incidents, the person the police stop turns out to be totally innocent.

Under the policy, police can essentially stop someone randomly and force them to empty their pockets and/or bags.

Well now, an audio tape has emerged of a teenager named Alvin who was allegedly stopped one day last year by police in Harlem.

The tape was obtained by The Nation.

Alvin says he was stopped more than once. In one incident, he says three officers confronted him because he looked "suspicious".

He says they called him a "f***in mutt" and threatened to smack him, break his arm, and punch him in the face.

And he says he recorded the whole thing.

In the video below, Alvin tells his story and plays the tape in question. A few veteran NYPD officers also talk about the stop-and-frisk program.

They say the police department pressures officers to conduct stop-and-frisks, so the department can meet certain quotas.

Under state law, arrest, summons or stop quotas are illegal. But the officers say if they don't follow orders, they're disciplined or penalized.

As one officer puts it, "a lot of police officers, they try to set civilians off and then once they start talking, start cursing, they can lock 'em for anything."

Another officer says "if you're a certain ethnicity standing on the corner, lieutenants, sergeants, they have no problem searching you, violating your rights and racial profiling."

One officer sums it up like this: "the civilian population - they're being hunted. Instead of being protected by us, they're being hunted and we're being hated."

Both New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have defended the policy, as a way of getting guns and drugs off the street.

And Kelly says citizens and communities want police to use stop-and-frisk more.

The NYPD reportedly carries out more than 1,800 stop-and-frisks a day. Over the past ten years, the number of reported stops has gone up 600%.

Nearly 700,000 stop-and-frisks were conducted last year. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, 84% of the people stopped were African American or Hispanic.

Only two per cent of people stopped were carrying any drugs.

Check out the video. It is extraordinary, in a really disturbing way.

A U.S. federal court is currently hearing a challenge to the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactics. The suit was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The court is expected to hear more than two weeks of testimony from people who say they were stopped by police for no reason. It's also expected to hear from several high ranking officials in the NYPD.

Yesterday, a senior prosecutor in the Bronx testified that she believed the police were wrongly stopping and arresting innocent people for trespassing.

Jeannette Rucker said she became concerned after she noticed that judges had "started dismissing these cases right and left."

As of July, she said her office won't prosecute certain trespass arrests unless it interviews the arresting officer. Before then, her team would move forward based on the officer's written report.

A lawyer for the city, Mark Zuckerman said "The NYPD has made tremendous efforts in the last year to make sure that its police officers understand the law surrounding stop, question, and frisk, and reasonable suspicion."

Christopher Dunn, a lawyer for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the new training programs were just a sign the police "understand that this is real."

"Stops on the street can be a humiliating experience," he said. "But here it's even more than that. We're talking about people who are walking in and out of their own homes. These stops are an assault on the sanctity of one's own home."

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