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October 12, 2012

The People United to keep the NYPD Accountable

stop and frisk rally photos
stop and frisk rally photos

This Wednesday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), fellow advocates, and affected community members are testifying at a New York City Council Legislative Hearing regarding the Community Safety Act, a landmark legislative package introduced earlier this year and now with majority co-sponsorship of the Council. The Act aims to secure real accountability and transparency for the New York Police Department (NYPD). Learn more about the Act here.

Wednesday’s hearing comes at a critical time. Over the last few months, calls from community members have escalated for accountability, transparency and oversight of the NYPD’s discriminatory policing practices. Listed below are a few critical highlights from the last six months to put this all in context:
1. In May, a federal judge certified the Center for Constitutional Rights’ federal class action suit against the NYPD, allowing all persons unlawfully stopped and frisked since January 2005 to be plaintiffs in the lawsuit. In her order, the judge found: “Suspicionless stops should never occur. [The NYPD’s] cavalier attitude towards the prospect of a ‘widespread practice of suspicionless stops’ displays a deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.” A trial is currently scheduled for March 2013.
2. In June, nearly ten thousand people took to the streets to participate in a silent march against stop and frisk abuses.

3. One month later, in July, the Center for Constitutional Rights released a report documenting the human impact of the stop and frisk policing practice, demonstrating the devastating impact that this policy is having on the lives of literally thousands of New Yorkers every single day, and for some communities, the pervasive andhostile police presence that accompanies it.

The encounters described by people interviewed by CCR represent frightening, intimidating and intrusive confrontations by the NYPD and how being stopped negatively impacts the daily lives of far too many individuals. Natasha A., a 24-year-old Black woman, told CCR, “When police come around, I make sure I keep my head down. I’m very cautious of where I go. Unfortunately, now I plan my destinations to a T. And at this point in my life, I take transportation, literal transportation, like bus and train. I don’t really walk anymore.

We just uploaded podcasts of people interviewed for this project, including Natasha, at http://stopandfrisk.org/stop-and-frisk-map-nyc/.  Check out the link to hear the experiences of people who are living or who have been stopped in your neighborhood.

4. In late September, nearly one thousand people came together to call for accountability over the NYPD at City Hall, including supporters of the Communities United for Police Reform campaign. The Rally for NYPD Accountability and Community Safety featured affected individuals, advocates, elected officials, leaders and artists who spoke about their experiences with discriminatory policing and calling for change. The rally highlighted a breadth of peoples’ experiences of discriminatory policing all across New York: including but not limited to the surveillance of entire communities based on their religion or ethnicity; the unlawful stopping of minority communities; the targeting and sexual harassment of young LGBTQ youth or gender-nonconforming individuals; harassment and targeting of homeless people or low income individuals; profiling of elected officials by the NYPD. Speakers also advocated for the passage of the Community Safety Act.

5. On the street New Yorkers are continuing to exercise their right to document police abuse across the city monitoring police stops, searches, and arrests through the use of cameras.  Community-based efforts like these are shifting the dynamic of police abuse as it takes place on the street, and CopWatch teams are taking off across the city.

Anthony T., a 33-year-old man who lives in the Lower East Side and engages in efforts like CopWatch explained the importance of documenting police abuse to CCR, “We’ve prevented people from getting tickets and things like that. And who knows where those things could’ve gone? Who knows where these things can escalate to? And we have been able to stop it before, before it starts.

6. Later this month, two field hearings have been scheduled on the issue of stop and frisk, including one scheduled in Brooklyn on October 23rd, on the heels of the International Day against Police Brutality.

The hearing, open to the public, will take place on Tuesday, October 23rd starting at 6:00 p.m. at the Brooklyn College Student Center in Brooklyn at 2705 Campus Road. Especially for community members who live in the shadow of some of the police precincts that stop people the most in New York City, attendance and participation at this hearing is critical.

It is an exciting time for advocates and community members who have been working for years (in some cases for decades) on the streets, in the courts and on the steps of City Hall to end police violence in marginalized communities, and to augment their calls for accountability of the world’s largest police force. We’re excited to be standing up, with such a large and growing community, for justice.

Nahal Zamani is the Advocacy Program Manager for the Center for Constitutional Rights. Learn more about CCR’s work on stop and frisk at www.stopandfrisk.org and more about the organization at: www.ccrjustice.org. 

About this author

Brooklyn Movement Center

Brooklyn Movement Center

The Brooklyn Movement Center (the “MC”) is a membership-led, direct-action, community organizing body based in Central Brooklyn (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and the surrounding area). We bring together residents to identify important issues in their lives, win concrete improvements in their community, and build power. The Brooklyn MC is staffed by local organizers, supported by volunteers, governed by a community-based board of directors, and guided by an advisory group made up of activists and organizers from across the city

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