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Flatiron Hot! News | May 25, 2017

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Stop the Frisking: When Stop and Frisk Crosses the Yellow Line

Stop the Frisking: When Stop and Frisk Crosses the Yellow Line
Shaun Persaud

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.

A picture of Shaun.

A picture of Shaun.

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.

Comments

  1. k j walden

    excellent story and well written to the point.

  2. You needed it to happen to you personally before you saw the issue? That’s what i took away from this.

    The whole issue with stop and frisk is the idea of racial profiling, which, in itself is a problem that, if you’re any sort of self-aware entity, should see be able to see without it happening to you personally.

    • billy

      It shouldn’t lessen his argument though, and it doesn’t make you any better to be condescending like that.

      And if it was that clear cut, it wouldn’t have been passed in the first place.

      • Didn’t say it lessened his argument. It just seems nuts to me that it took this happening to him personally for his eyes to open and for him to say:”Whoa. This is wrong.”

        It pretty much is that clear cut, but people who maybe, i don’t know, share the mindset of the oppressors who pushed this through might not see it as such. It’s not like they’re just doing it in high risk areas, it’s everywhere. And there’s no real criteria other than skin color for them to stop people. That right there is the issue.

        and original poster is pretty lucky he got off the way he did for talking back like that. If they’re stopping him, he’s already lost his right as a human. Why would they care that he was going to be late for work?

    • noo

      I agree with your point. A person should be able to see the issue without having it have it literally happen to them.

      By the way your statement that the “Constitution grants the police the right to search upon probable cause” is inaccurate. The Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. Turning to state and local (in this case NYC) law, the police department makes provisions on how such stops are conducted. The Constitution in no way gives any provisions on allowing police to stop or search anyone. In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) SCOTUS interpreted the Constitution, specifically the fourth amendment and found that it was not violated when a police officer stops a suspect on the street and frisks him or her without probable cause to arrest, if the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime and has a reasonable belief that the person “may be armed and presently dangerous.”

      In your situation I think you are better off getting the officers’ shield numbers and contacting the CCRB or going to any precinct in NYC and requesting a form to file a complaint against the officers. Racial remarks and profanity are among the many things you can file a complaint for.

  3. Simply stated, your experience sucked and no person taking the subway should be exposed to such degrading behavior *especially* by those that are supposed to be protecting civilians. However, you technically were not stopped and frisked, which is simply a temporary detainment with the superficial pat-down of external clothing (searches would only occur if once they pat you down they “feel” something suspicious like a gun). Instead, you were just full-blown searched. While I believe that the same racialized ideologies that make the Stop-and-Frisk policies so terrible were at play within your experience, and help explain why you were targeted on the train, it is important to differentiate between the two practices because of the extent to which they relate to our discourse between the citizen, public space and policing. Stop-and-Frisk (explained quickly above) has been given such leeway (meaning they can occur almost anywhere and anytime) is because its “superficial” they never actually are supposed to dig in any pockets or search bags (the extent to which it *is* superficial is clearly debatable as multiple videos and accounts reveal a much more aggressively handsy experience). However, while on the MTA, police officers have full liberties to search your bag COMPLETELY and without really any excuse. The reasoning here lies that you chose to enter a “private” institutions which can make you adhere to its policing. (How you can call the MTA “private” is beyond me as it is almost an inescapable form of transit in NYC). What I think you–and all of us really–should examine is the extent to which the NYPD has been given such free range within the MTA without any public discussion. In the name of “fighting terrorism” we have allowed for the violations of our civil liberties that lead to such terrible experiences as the one you describe above. At least the proposed General Inspector would oversee some of the abuses of the Stop-and-Frisk policies, but who is going to oversee the behaviors of cops on the MTA?

  4. monica

    Possibly racist? No this wasn’t possibly racist; this WAS BLATANTLY RACIST.
    Thank you for writing this with in such a level headed manner. Something I would not have been able to do.