The Nation‘s YouTube page brings us this thought-provoking and frustrating video of a 17-year-old boy getting repeatedly stopped and brutally harassed as part of the NYPD’s Stop-And-Frisk program.
It’s an interesting, well-put together compilation of the teenager’s real audio of police brutality and interviews with police officers (anonymously) about the pressure to fill quotas and to stop and bother citizens who aren’t doing anything wrong. Most disturbingly, the cops interviewed say that if they refuse to harass people in order to meet their unspoken (and even spoken, though not allowed) quotas, they will face consequences like reassignment to worse neighborhoods, loss of promotions and desk duty.
There’s all kinds of street privilege afforded to you depending on who you are. As a woman, let’s say, I walk down the street on guard against cat-calling, groping or sexual assault. This video further illuminated to me the paranoia and fear a person of color might feel out on the city streets. They’re on guard against police harassment or unlawful arrest.
For example, the cops say they stopped Alvin (the audio-recording teen) because he kept looking back at their car, but Alvin asserts he only did that because he’d just been stopped two blocks back and was worried it would happen again. It’s cyclical. He’s paranoid of getting stopped for no reason so he acts scared, so the cops think he’s got something to hide and they get out and harass him.
But it escalates so quickly, and as the cops interviewed assert, officers will be purposefully gruff and rough so that the other person might start an altercation and they can have reason to bring them in.
In one attitude-revealing interview, an officer says his superior told him, “Let’s go out and violate some rights!”
To some of you reading this, the information in this mini-doc will seem maddening and confusing. How can cops just do this — disrespect the rights of private citizens? Is this allowed to just continue? But to some, unfortunately, it’s gonna seem like a video about your everyday life. It’s just something you put up with for going outside. This the “street privilege” I mentioned before: the assumption that you have certain rights that will be respected by others when you leave your front door.
Alvin isn’t the only one experiencing this: the doc says NYPD officers conduct Stop-And-Frisks 1,800 times every day.
Speaking from personal experience, this video hit close to home: I live in Harlem, not far from where Alvin’s incident occurred. I am white. I have never been bothered by police in my neighborhood, except one time when an officer asked me if I was lost when I was on my way to my apartment.
“I live here,” I said, multiple times. He did not believe me.
I’ve also had taxi drivers and public transportation officials not believe I lived where they were dropping me off. But the point is, I have never had a problem with the cops in that way and I’ve lived in Harlem for over a year. So for Alvin to be stopped twice in one day, as a routine, certainly says something about what the police are looking for.
That, as this video illuminates, is my privilege.
Do you have personal experiences with being stopped and frisked/racially profiled? Some of you never even have to think about it, but I’m absolutely sure a lot of you, like Alvin, do.