After a federal judge ruled New York City’s “stop-and-frisk” police policy to be unconstitutional Monday, African-American and Latino men in Brooklyn applauded the ruling and chronicled their experiences with being stopped, frisked, questioned, and even detained by officers.
“I’ve been stopped for no reason, I’ve been jailed for no reason,” Kelvin Jannette, 27, of Brooklyn, told BuzzFeed, as he worked handing out flyers.
Janette told the story of a time he was leaving his apartment building, walking down a wheelchair-accessible ramp, when he says police yelled, “You come here!”
“They said, ‘You were shooting dice.’ I was like, ‘I’m not doing anything!’” he said, as he acted out what he says is necessary precaution: Holding up his hands and “shimmying” his pants down so they would see he didn’t have a gun.
“It would be so beautiful if cops treated people with respect, period. They show up and treat you like you killed somebody,” he said.
Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that the policy — through which 4.4 million stops were made between January 2004 and June 2012, and 80% of which were stops of blacks or Hispanics — was unconstitutional, and called for remedies to be made.
These include an outside lawyer monitoring the NYPD’s compliance with the constitution, a pilot program for officers in five precincts to wear cameras on their bodies to record street encounters, and community meetings to reform stop-and-frisk.
She cited plaintiff testimony to characterize each stop as “a demeaning and humiliating experience.”
“No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life,” the judge wrote. She found that when minorities were stopped, they “were more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband.”
Michael Fye, 25, said he has never been taken to jail but has been approached by cops and asked questions.
“I told them, ‘I’m not out here selling weed, I’m not shooting dice, I’m just having a conversation with my friends.’”
Jose Rodriguez, 40, who lives in Brooklyn, said he was stopped because police said he fit the description of a robbery suspect. He acknowledged that “without law and order, there would be chaos,” but says cops could do a better job of having their badges out and identifying themselves as officers.
Jannette agrees. “If they’re gonna frisk, they should follow procedure. They should present their badge and let people know you’re a cop,” he says.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly defended stop-and-frisk tactics as necessary, and said the city will appeal the ruling.
“Victims and perpetrators of crime are disproportionately young, minority men,” Bloomberg said, becoming agitated as he defended the policy.
He said the pilot program featuring cameras on officers would be a failure.
“A camera on a police officer would be a disaster. It’s a solution that is not a solution to the problem.”
Asked what the ruling would mean for his legacy, he snapped back.
“I don’t know, this is 12 years now that people have been able to walk down the street without looking over their shoulder,” he bristled. “I’d say that’s a good legacy.”
For his part, Jannette says he understands that police should stop people, but he thinks they can do a better job in how they go about it.
He said he’s going to look into the community meetings that Judge Scheindlin recommended as a remedy. “I have some suggestions.”