On June 3, 2011, three plainclothes New York City Police officers stopped a Harlem teenager named Alvin, one of 600,000 mostly Black and Latino young men who are stopped for no reason except their race (and gender) each year in New York.
The stop and frisk of would have been unremarkable, except that Alvin secretly captured the interaction on his cell phone, and the resulting audio, part of a new video released by The Nation, is one of the only known recordings of stop-and-frisk in action. When Alvin asks why he is being threatened with arrest, the other officer responds, “For being a fucking mutt.” Later in the stop, while holding Alvin’s arm behind his back, the first officer says, “Dude, I’m gonna break your fuckin’ arm, then I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ face.”
The video about stop-and-frisk (13:15) is here:
The audio was recently played at a meeting of The Morris Justice Project, a group of Bronx residents who have organized around the issue of stop-and-frisk and have been compiling data on people’s interactions with police. Jackie Robinson, mother of two boys, expected not to be surprised when told about the contents of the recording. “It’s stuff we’ve all heard before,” she said at the gathering. Yet Robinson visibly shuddered at one of the audio’s most violent passages. She had heard plenty about these encounters, but had never actually listened to one in action.
Although perhaps not surprising, part of what is compelling about this short video clip is that includes interviews with two members of the NYPD. With their identities disguised, two officers from two different precincts in two separate boroughs speak about the same types of pressures put on front line police from higher-ups to meet numerical goals or face disciplinary action and retaliation. Most chillingly, both officers use the word “hunt” when describing the relentless quest for summonses, stops and arrests.
The racial pattern of these stops – something like 87% of the stops are of Black and Latino young men – and the utter lack of effectiveness in terms of ‘policing’ – only 1% yield any weapons – highlight the stark racial policing of these practices. It seems clear that the NYPD’s policing is intended to exercise control over young men of color in the city, and that these policies are guided by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg. These unjust, racist police practices will remain in place until those at the highest levels of city government decide to take action to dismantle these policies.