The same week that a dramatic audio recording revealed a New York City police officer calling a Harlem teenager a “f******* mutt” during a street stop, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration refused the City Council’s attempts to rein in the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policies.
The Nation released audio Monday of a Harlem teenager named Alvin who recorded being stopped by police in June of 2011.
Alvin was on his way home from his girlfriend’s house when he was approached by the police.
When he asked why he was going to be arrested, cops in the tape told him for being an “[expletive] mutt” and also “threatened to break his [expletive] arm.”
NYPD data shows that 684,000 people were stopped by police last year, a 14 percent increase from the year before, and 87 percent were black or Latino.
Council members brought up the video at a hearing yesterday, considering four bills to restrict stop-and-frisk and add an inspector general to watch over the NYPD.
An attorney for the Bloomberg administration, Michael Best, said he could not account for the activities of every officer but called the proposed changes unnecessary, citing legal issues with each one.
The hearing became heated, with Brooklyn Councilwoman Tish James saying that her neighbor, nephew, doctor and dentist have all been stopped and questioned by the police for no reason.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has said that stop-and-frisk should remain a tool for the NYPD but should be examined, called overwhelmingly stopping minorities divisive.
“That type of a divide is a danger to good policing and a danger to keeping our city safe,” she said.
Bloomberg has pushed back against the idea of an inspector general, telling reporters that to “politicize” the police department would make the city less safe.
‘You want me to smack you?’ Harlem teen secretly records police encounter
Alvin, a Harlem teenager, told The Nation that three plainclothes city cops stopped him on the street last June. Two frisked him while the third stayed in the police car, which was unmarked, he said.
Alvin was quick-thinking enough to secretly record the encounter on his phone. During the two-minute recording, police told him that they stopped him because he was looking at them suspiciously and questioned why he had an empty backpack.
They also threaten to hit him and break his arm. Alvin said that during the arrest, they yanked his arm behind his back.
The NYPD has defended the policy, saying they do not racially profile, and it keeps New Yorkers safe.
All on tape
Conversation between Alvin and the two officers:
ALVIN: I just got stopped like two blocks away
COP: You know why? You look very suspicious.
A: Cause you’re always looking at me crazy.
C: Because you keep looking back at us man, don’t do that s***.
A: ‘Cause you always … you’re always looking crazy, yo. Coming up the block, always.
C: That’s our job, my man. Listen to me, listen to me. Our job is to look for suspicious behavior. When you keep lookin’ at us like that, looking back …
A: ‘Cause you’re always like stopping … I just got stopped like two blocks away.
C: Because you keep doing that s*** man, we stopped you last time …
C: Why do you have a f-ing empty backpack?
A: ‘Cause I had my hoodie in there
C: You have your hoodie on your body. Why you a f-ing wise a**?
A: Well, it was cold.
C: You want me to smack you?
A: You’re going to smack me? You’re going to smack me?
C: You a wise a**?
A: No, you asked me why I had a bookbag on …
A: Why are you touching me for?
C: You want to go to jail?
A: What for?
C: Shut your f-ing mouth, kid.
A: What am I getting arrested for?
C: For being a f-ing mutt. You know that?
A: That’s a law, being a mutt?
Personal stories of being stopped by cops
Kevin Finnegan, director of policies for the healthcare union 1199, said many of their young hospital workers report being stopped and frisked. In fact, he said, many started wearing their scrubs on the streets, just so they don’t get stopped — they are less likely to be stopped if they appear to be going to work.
“Nobody should be stopped because of the way they look,” he said. “Too many young people think that because a police officer asks them to empty their pocket, they have to.”
Djibril Toure, a Bed-Stuy resident and member of the Communities United for Police Reform, said that he supported the legislation, especially a bill requiring officers to identify themselves and why they stopped someone. “I have had the experience walking down the street in my own community where I grew up, being stopped, forced to stand against a wall and illegally searched by four officers,” he said. Many officers do not provide their name and badge number, and locals as a result may not initially know they are dealing with an officer.
Nicholas Peart testified to the Council about being stopped and frisked, something he said his mother started preparing him for when he was 14. Her advice included not panicking, carrying identification and never running from the police or he would be shot. He has been stopped on his way to get burgers on the Upper West Side, leaving his grandmother’s home in Flatbush and walking home from the gym. Each way made him more anxious about police, he said. “That hostility needs to go,” he told the Council. “It shouldn’t be there.”