Stop the Frisking: When Stop and Frisk Crosses the Yellow Line
By Shaun Persaud – Edited by the Flatiron Hot! News Editorial Staff
I would like to begin by saying I respect the right of police officers to search a citizen they believe to be suspicious. The Constitution grants the police the right to search upon probable cause, and tries to balance the need to protect us with our expectation of individual liberty. We are citizens in an era where searches are unfortunately a necessary precaution. I also acknowledge that during the time this event took place, I may have looked suspicious: a 20-something-year-old male with dark skin, short hair, and a beard that has been growing in for a couple of weeks, holding a large closed duffel bag while seated in the corner of the F train. I do not, however, appreciate the manner in which I, an honor student at Hunter College and a law abiding citizen of New York City with no prior offenses, was treated by the officers who searched me.
This is how it all went down:
The incident began when two members of New York’s finest approached me on the F train right before the train pulled into the 21st Street/Queensbridge stop. They informed me that they would like to search my bag. My first thought was “Why me?” The “routine search” started to get weird when I was instructed to get off the train.
First of all, I was not sure they could make me get off the train, especially when I knew it would make me late for work. So, I politely informed the officer of my predicament:
“Officer, if I get off of the train, I will be late for work. Can’t you just search the bag right here?”
His response? “Don’t worry, the Halal cart can wait.”
Ignoring this provocation – which a reasonable person might interpret to be an ethnic or racial slur depending upon the circumstances – I informed the officer once again that I would be late if I got off the train. He then told me that I would be arrested if I continued not to cooperate. So, I got off of the train and was forced to stand idly by as the officers took every single item out of my bag, and ridiculed me for having a copy of George Orwell’s Burmese Days; “What is this gay shit you’re reading?” Once the officers realized I had nothing they could take me in for, they told me that I should “keep [my] attitude in check in the future,” and one was nice enough to tell me to “enjoy the rest of [my] day at the Halal cart.”
While I understand that officers need to conduct and perform searches because of the dangerous times we live in, I do not respect their choice to be rude, nasty, and possibly racist in their conduct. If the officers had been courteous or even apologetic in making me late for work, I would have understood and would not have been hesitant in the slightest. However, I feel as though I was harassed by the police officers. The entire experience was an eye opener; I can see why the “Stop-and-Frisk” policy and the volatile issue of racial profiling was deemed unconstitutional after much debate in a recent court case, and why this issue is a critical one in the current mayoral and campaign season. No one should ever be treated as I was treated – especially when you feel as though you might be locked up for defending your rights. In this case a little courtesy would have gone a long way – at least for me.