he City Council Civil Rights Committee held a hearing Tuesday night in Brooklyn College, eliciting volatile testimony from community groups and local residents about their relationship with the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.
Tempers flared as residents, particularly those who live in targeted stop-and-frisk zones like East New York and Brownsville, unleashed an onslaught of emotions, recalling scarring experiences with stop-and-frisk.
East New York resident Carmel Wingate cried uncontrollably as she described an officer from the 75th precinct throwing her daughter to the ground and then twisting Wingate’s arms because she had a small liquor bottle in her back pocket.
“All of us in the neighborhood we are good people, why would they do that to us? And no one is going to do nothing about this, you are the council members what are you going to do,” shouted Wingate.
After the hearing, Councilmember Deborah Rose said, “After some of the testimonies, I feel anxious and I feel traumatized and that is apart of the collateral damage to stop question and frisk,
“They are just trying to live life and everybody is seeing through a criminal eye. People are not being allowed to live and this is an everyday reality in communities of color. It has to stop, something has to happen.”
Stop-and-frisk has become such a common routine for many youths that East New York youth Romale Johnson has experienced it about 20 times within the past four years.
“I feel like we are targeted only because of how we look and the color of our skin and I hope this hearing today allowed you to hear the voices of those most impacted from our communities,” Johnson said.
Stop-and-frisk has left some scarred with fear and distrust of the NYPD and many wonder if this bill will reinstate a level of respect between the NYPD and minority communities.
The Civil Rights Committee usually holds its hearings at City Hall. But Councilmembers Jumaane Williams, Deborah Rose and Margaret Chin decided to take the hearing into the communities that suffer most from the effects of stop-and-frisk.
Another hearing will be held at York College in Queens with the testimonies of residents, community groups and police officers on Wednesday at 6pm.
“We need to have these hearings outside of Manhattan and in the outer boroughs so that people’s voices can be heard,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams.
Council member Margaret Chin said the hearing reinforces the importance of the stop-and-frisk bill the City Council is considering.
This month the New York City Council introduced the Community Safety Act, a set of four bills that protects residents against unlawful searches on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation and gender profiling.
If enacted, the act will install an inspector general to oversee the stop-and-frisk policy and give those stopped the right to receive not only the officer’s name, badge number, and the reason for the stop, but it also allows a person to sue the officer and the City of New York for unlawful searches.
At the Civil Rights Committee hearing, members of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Communities United for Police Reform, Road New York and other community groups demanded an immediate change in the stop-and-frisk policies.
But not everyone was optimistic about the Community Safety Act.
Many advocates, like Jodie Nicole a co-organizer of the group Stop Stop-and-Frisk, expressed her frustration with not only the NYPD, but also with the bill.
“The NYPD is here to protect and serve some of us. They are not here to protect and serve everybody,” said Nicole.
“I don’t know if the NYPD can ever be an institution that is here to protect and serve all of us. I don’t know if this Community Safety Act is able to move us forward enough in a direction so that NYPD can be looked at as such an institution.”