Posts tagged stop and frisk.
On June 3, 2011, three plainclothes New York City Police officers stopped a Harlem teenager named Alvin and two of the officers questioned and frisked him while the third remained in their unmarked car. Alvin secretly captured the interaction on his cell phone, and the resulting audio is one of the only known recordings of stop-and-frisk in action.
In the course of the two-minute recording, the officers give no legally valid reason for the stop, use racially charged language and threaten Alvin with violence. Early in the stop, one of the officers asks, “You want me to smack you?” When Alvin asks why he is being threatened with arrest, the other officer responds, “For being a fucking mutt.” Later in the stop, while holding Alvin’s arm behind his back, the first officer says, “Dude, I’m gonna break your fuckin’ arm, then I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ face.”
“In a significant blow to New York City’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics, the Bronx district attorney’s office is no longer prosecuting people who were stopped at public housing projects and arrested for trespassing, unless the arresting officer submits to an interview to ensure that the arrest was warranted.
Prosecutors quietly adopted the policy in July after discovering that many people arrested on charges of criminal trespass at housing projects were innocent, even though police officers had provided written statements to the contrary.
By essentially accusing the police of wrongfully arresting people, the stance taken by Bronx prosecutors is the first known instance in which a district attorney has questioned any segment of arrests resulting from stop-and-frisk tactics.
Bronx prosecutors are now requiring that they interview the arresting officer in the “hopes of eliminating tenants and invited guest from being prosecuted unlawfully,” according to a letter to the Police Department from Jeannette Rucker, a bureau chief in the district attorney’s office.
Trespassing arrests in the Bronx have fallen 38.2 percent, year to date, compared with 2011.
In August, arrests for all second- and third-degree misdemeanor trespassing cases in the Bronx fell by nearly 25 percent from August 2011. In Manhattan and Brooklyn, trespass arrests were down less than 5 percent in August compared with August 2011, and in Queens trespass arrests actually rose considerably.
Steven Banks, the chief lawyer of the Legal Aid Society in New York, said that the new requirement put “a procedure in place to verify that the stop and subsequent arrest were proper.”
“This is exactly what prosecutors should be doing before proceeding with criminal prosecutions — namely making sure that formulaic statements by police officers actually have some basis to support the arrest and prosecution,” Mr. Banks said.
The city’s reliance on stop-and-frisk has come under intense scrutiny and legal challenges, as critics charge that the police disproportionately target minorities and harass innocent people. That sentiment is especially prevalent at housing projects, which account for about 10 percent to 15 percent of all police stops; the trespassing arrests occur when officers are unconvinced that a person lives at the housing project or is an invited guest.
Police officers typically would fill out a sworn statement and some check-the-box-type paperwork on such low-level arrests.
Steven Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney, Robert T. Johnson, said that the new policy of requiring interviews of officers “was discussed with the offices of the other district attorneys and the N.Y.P.D.,” but he would not comment further because of continuing litigation.
The new policy in the Bronx led to an Internal Affairs Bureau inquiry into the allegation of improper arrests, according to a letter sent by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly to Mr. Johnson on Sept. 6. Mr. Kelly said that no misconduct had been uncovered, and that it appeared that Ms. Rucker’s “estimation of the issue was in error and that she overstated her perception of discrepancies regarding criminal trespass arrests in the Bronx.”
Mr. Kelly also suggested that Ms. Rucker was unable to provide specifics of the cases cited in her letter, and that she could cite only one example in which an arrest was dismissed because of a police error. Nonetheless, he added that the legal issues surrounding trespassing arrests would be addressed at training sessions at the precinct and borough levels.
Mr. Johnson has adopted some independent positions before. In 2006, he became the first prosecutor to use the state’s 2001 antiterrorism statute, doing so against a street gang member. He also issued a statement in 1995 saying he did not intend to pursue execution in first-degree murder cases.
The letter from Ms. Rucker, who is the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, was filed in federal court this week in a lawsuit challenging trespass arrests in New York.
Prosecutors in the Bronx have been “experiencing a great deal of problems with trespassing” arrests, Ms. Rucker wrote in the July 18 letter. She wrote that she had received numerous complaints from defense lawyers who claimed that many of the people arrested were not trespassers. Deciding to investigate further, she found that “in many (but not all) of the cases the defendants arrested were either legitimate tenants or invited guests,” she wrote.
In some cases, Ms. Rucker found, the police arrested people even when there was persuasive evidence that they were not trespassing, citing “several instances where defendants who were guests, had the person whom they were visiting verify this fact to the arresting officer, yet the defendant was arrested anyway.” In those cases, the deposition from the arresting officer “indicated the defendant did not know the name of any tenant or the apartment number.”
From 2009 to 2011, the police arrested more than 16,000 people on trespass charges in public housing, according to a report filed as part of the federal litigation over the arrests.
At the Mott Haven Houses in the Bronx on Tuesday, several tenants and neighbors said they had been wrongly arrested for trespassing.
Darren Jones, 28, said he was arrested in the elevator of his building in the development about two months ago because he did not have identification. He said he chose to pay a fine rather than contest the arrest.
Quanell Carwell, 27, a hairstylist who lives at the Mott Haven complex, said she was in the courtyard common area three weeks ago when she was arrested for trespassing. She was given a desk appearance ticket, but said she was going to plead not guilty because she did not do anything wrong.
In addition to stops in public housing, Ms. Rucker’s letter addresses stops in private buildings registered with the Clean Halls program, in which landlords of some 16,000 buildings have given the police permission to enter and patrol the hallways and stairwells. The Legal Aid Society and civil rights groups, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, have sued the city over trespass arrests in both public housing and buildings registered with the Clean Halls program.
According to another memorandum filed in the lawsuit, the Police Department had voiced its own concern about the legality of police stops at housing projects. In 2010, Katherine Lemire, the counsel to Mr. Kelly, told the Civilian Complaint Review Board that she had “found many instances in which officers were incorrectly stating the required standard for a question or stop” at public housing, according to a memo prepared by Meera Joshi, then a deputy executive director at the board.
Ms. Joshi wrote that Ms. Lemire pointed out that some officers were under the mistaken impression that they “were entitled to stop and question anyone inside” public housing.
In fact, legal experts say, the police require reasonable suspicion that a person is about to or has just committed a penal code violation before stopping that person.
After Ms. Lemire’s findings, Commissioner Kelly issued a directive reinforcing the legal standards and ordered intensive training for all housing officers and certain patrol officers. In all, some 3,000 officers went through a three-week training program, conducted by the department’s academy chief and overseen by the commanding officer of the Legal Bureau, according to Ms. Joshi’s Sept. 28, 2010, memo.
Even so, problems with trespassing cases seemed to persist.
“Unfortunately, as this most recent letter shows, these stops and arrests continue, and more drastic measures are needed,” Christopher Dunn, the associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said.
In Brooklyn, prosecutors shared their own concerns about potentially problematic trespass cases with prosecutors around the city and the Police Department’s legal bureau, according to Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the borough’s district attorney. The topic surfaced about two years ago, he said.
“We found that there were times when the basis for the arrests might not have been the criteria we were looking for, and we addressed that through training,” Mr. Schmetterer said.”
The Scars of Stop-and-Frisk: A short documentary film on New York’s stop-and-frisk policing focuses on Tyquan Brehon, a young man in Brooklyn who says he was stopped more than 60 times before age 18.
— ‘They Think We Are Animals’: How America’s Police State Controls Black People | Nick Powers - Alternet (via newwavefeminism)
See also Sweatt v. Painter (1950)
The case involved a black man, Heman Marion Sweatt, who was refused admission to the School of Law of the University of Texas, whose president was Theophilus Painter, on the grounds that the Texas State Constitution prohibited integrated education. At the time, no law school in Texas would admit black students, or, in the language of the time, “Negro” students.
The state district court in Travis County, instead of granting the plaintiff a writ of mandamus, continued the case for six months. This allowed the state time to create a law school only for black students, which it established in Houston, Texas, rather than in Austin. The ‘separate’ law school and the college became today’s Texas Southern University; the law school is known as the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
Reblogging because my parents actually went to TSU… And this explains a lot…
In other news I’ve had friends who got rolled up on by campus safety WHILE DOING LAUNDRY in their own dorm because the student that called didn’t think he belonged. Me and my friend who work at the info desk of the STUDENT CENTER are always asked “are you a student here?” despite the name plate that says my name and class year right on top of the table.
Historically white colleges (which is a phrase we don’t use that is a perfect descriptor of a LOT of schools out there, we should make that a thing btw) have a great way of reminding you the most people still don’t think students of color REALLY belong…
Stopped, Frisked and Speaking Out
The Police Department stopped and questioned more than 684,000 people last year. Close to 90 percent were black and Latino. Civil liberties groups have protested, but rarely do we hear from the men who are so frequently stopped. Filmmakers Lindsey Groot and Robin Antonisse provide us with four such stories in this exclusive video.
Bloomberg aims to help the young black and Latino men he has been throwing in jail for a decade